It’s that time of year again. While by now those of you going to the game probably have a game plan on what to do on Friday night, the planning for Saturday morning is arguably more important. This year, OU-Texas goes back to its traditional 11 AM slot, so maximizing your time at the fair is even more important than it was last year.
The hungover early morning stumble to get to the fair can be quite the hassle. Between the crowds, the heat, acquiring Coupons (more on that) and handling a head splitting hangover while simultaneously trying to pregame is a lot to juggle in just a few short hours.
Thankfully, that’s where we at The Schooner Blog come in. Through years of grizzled Red River experience and hours (okay, maybe a few minutes) of research, we have compiled everything you need to be State Fair ready.
The first and most important thing to know about the Fair is none of the vendors accept cards or cash. What you’ll need instead are Coupons, these weird little tickets sold in massive strips. Each coupon is worth 50 cents, so you’ll want to load up. For example, one standard beer is typically worth 12 Coupons, so don’t worry about overbuying. If anyone is trying to give any extras, you jump on them ASAP. Even if you don’t end up using them, Coupons roll over annually so you can save for next year, if you play your cards right. If you want, you can even go ahead and get some right now and skip the line.
Eating at the Fair
The Timeless, ‘Must Have’ Classic
While some of the most insane food creations in the world can be found here, let me implore you to skip the temptation of items like the Funnel Cake Bacon Queso burger. The best food item here is the Fletcher’s Corny Dog. Now, the Corny Dog is not to be confused with the generic, average corn dogs found throughout the Fair. This piece of heaven on a stick has been around for 76 years and is, hands down, the greatest food item I can think of.
The lines are absurdly long, but missing out on this experience would leave your OU-Texas weekend incomplete. The main Fletcher’s stand is right under Big Tex, the massive talking cowboy statue that’s impossible to miss, but there are plenty around Fair Park with shorter lines. The legendary @SoonerTracker on Twitter even created this handy map of not only all the places where you can find Fletcher’s, but the best places for beer as well.
New for 2018 at Fletcher’s ? The Cheezy Pup, which is cheese fried in Corny Dog batter. I’ll just stick with the standard classic. Price: 12 Coupons
Big Tex Choice Award Picks
Each year, new contenders step up to the plate to take home one of the most prestigious titles of them all: the Big Tex Choice Award. While there are only three winners (Best Taste Savory, Best Taste Sweet and Most Creative), most of the finalists are just as good if not better. Here’s a look at what won this year.
(You can map out the locations of these items and many more here!)
Best Taste (Savory): Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce
Yeah, honestly I have no idea what this is. The description from BigTex.com lists it as being a fried mix of “creamy black-eyed peas, fluffy white rice, spicy smoked sausage, aromatic green onions, and a secret blend of spices are combined with breadcrumbs and eggbeaters to form a generous Texas-sized cake” and something called Jackpot Sauce that Guy Fieri is almost certainly behind. While most State Fair foods can be described as “normal food but fried so it’s weird”, this seems like a legitimate dish that I wouldn’t be stunned to come across in some quaint run down place in East Texas.
Best Taste (Sweet): Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice)
This looks absolutely lovely. I don’t know if these rice balls are a traditional Hispanic dessert or not outside of the fair, but I need them to be. Just listen to the description; “A cinnamon-spiced rice ball is formed, battered, and coated in crispy puffed rice cereal. The ball is then deep fried to golden perfection”. Even though I’m wary of eating ice cream in the unforgiving Texas heat, this looks incredibly good.
Most Creative: Cotton Candy Taco
I have a bone to pick with this one. Taking a non-traditional spin on the taco isn’t exactly anything new. There are entire restaurant chains based on doing creative things with tacos; so how is this most creative? It doesn’t look bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but most creative? Seems like a low bar.
The Schooner Blog “Based on the Photo” Choice Awards
As most of the contributors to the Schooner Blog live in Oklahoma, none of us have had the chance to actually try these. However, we can give some advice on what looks best among the Big Tex finalists. Here is what me and fellow Schooner Pod host Jamison Maxwell highlighted as what we’re keeping an eye on.
Texas Fried Hill Country
This dish combines two things that I’m an absolute sucker for; caprese and fried food. Give me that perfect mixture of mozzarella, tomato and basil and I’m all over it every time. This looks like the a perfect postgame stop if I’m tired of Corny Dogs (which, I mean, c’mon) and is on the top of my radar.
Fernie’s ORANGE YOU GLAD WE FRIED IT?!
The desert selection for the crew, this looks like the perfect postgame dish for those wanting a something little sweet after their football. Big Tex describes it as, “Layers of chiffon orange cake, whipped cream, and citrusy orange preserves are lightly blended to form a custard filling. The mixture is spooned into flaky puff pastry dough, folded turnover style, and sealed before being fried into little crescent-shaped pillows, dusted with powdered sugar.” Sounds like a winner to me.
Corn Dog Ale
I’m not sure if I find this fascinating or disgusting. Probably both. The beer itself is “an amber ale brewed with a blend of Pale 2-Row barleys, caramel malt, and smoked malt” with spices added in to give the beer the taste of a corn dog. To top it off, the beer is garnished with a mustard rim. I’ve had some strange beers in my days, as Weekend Spread contributor Blake Crowley can attest to (s/o to The Salty Lady and Cup ‘O Beer), but this might be the strangest yet. Look for Jamison and I’s official video review on gameday (if we aren’t too drunk and forget).
Drinking at the Fair
The Cotton Bowl, despite being owned by the city and having no university affiliation, does not sell beer in the stands. This is probably for the best as this game gets as heated as any in college football. With that being said, you need to be prepared if you want to maximize your time and money.
Beer prices vary, but there is one mythical stand with 6 Coupon beers. It allegedly is called The Beer Barn, although I have yet gotten lucky enough to find it. You can get Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Miller Lite, PBR and Lone Star. You should be able to find it here on the map.
If you have are a bit of a beer snob like myself, check out the Magnolia Beer Garden. This place has an expansive selection of beer from across Texas and the world. If you want to attempt to look cultured to your girlfriend or group of friends, head over to the Wine Garden, which features over 40 wineries from the State of Texas. There are plenty other beer and wine gardens around the fair (including Yardbirds, where you can find the aforementioned Corn Dog beer) but these are the highlight locations.
If you want to stick to wax cup Coors Light, more power to you. There are attractions for those that don’t want to just drink, but hey, that’s just not me at this point in time. The Texas Star, a 200+ foot ferris wheel that ranks as the third largest in the nation, is a trip that could be pretty cool. However, I’d prefer to spend my time on the ground and drinking.
If you somehow survive a full day at the fair from an 11 AM kickoff to make it to the late night show, Aaron Watson is performing at 8:30 PM on the Chevrolet Main Stage. While staying that late in Fair Park is a bit of a death wish, it’s a solid country show you get free with your game ticket. If you are a more seasoned vet who is done with the bar scene, this could be a good nightcap option.