Deep Fried Americana at The FL State Fair

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There is nothing I love more that traveling to far off places and immersing myself in other cultures, but the sad fact of it is there is still a lot of American culture that I have not really experienced.  I’ve not even really wanted to if I’m completely honest.  Maybe it’s that it’s so close it doesn’t seem “exotic” or maybe I’m just a self-loathing American, but I have a hard time getting as excited about experiences in my own backyard as I do about far away places.

I have several friends that get so excited when the fair is in town and I never quite got it.  I hadn’t been, but it always seemed kinda dirty and sad to me.  I’d like to tell you my recent visit to the Florida State Fair changed that opinion, but that would be a lie.  Now I know it’s dirty and sad, but it certainly is an iconic American experience.

The Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

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~The Rides~

I’ll start off by saying that I missed out on the main thing most people love about the fair, the rides.  It’s just that I live in Orlando and get to go on way better rides all the time.  Most of these rides looked like they would either make me throw up or kill me, and either way that’s a great way to ruin a day at the fair.  It also costs extra to go on them.  I already paid $11 just to walk around here.  Come on!

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~The Exhibits and Contests~

This  was the best part.  The exhibits at the fair ranged from the amazing to the just plain confusing.  There was a balloon carousel though, that was pretty impressive.

Balloon Carousel at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Balloon Carousel at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Balloon Carousel at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

There was also an aquarium contest.  I’m not sure what the criteria was.  It was just a wall of aquariums that all had 1st place ribbons on them.  This one had an amusing sign about a crab though, presumably out of necessity.

he Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

There were similar “everyone’s a winner” contests for plants and wine.

I also got to witness a man dressed as a baby jumping off of a high dive into a pool of water.  I still don’t really know how to process that.

he Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Then there was Cracker Country.  This was a highlight mostly because it reminded me of every field trip I took in elementary school.  It was a late 1800s village with interactive booths where you can do things like make candles, or make a rope out of some smaller ropes.  You know, things kids love.  We used the 1800s printing press to make some Florida State Fair Cracker Country post cards.

Cracker Country at he Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Cracker Country at he Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

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~The Food~

Fair Food at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

This is what I was most excited about and most disappointed in.  I love trying different foods and I obviously didn’t expect haute cuisine, but most of this wasn’t good even as far as fried greasy food goes.  I had fried cookie dough, which is not as good as cookies.   I had the pizza made of ramen noodles, which was actually worse than it looks believe it or not.

Fair Food at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

I tried elephant ears for the first time and learned that they are in fact different from funnel cake.  The lady at the stand explained the difference to me as “one is fried dough and the other is fried batter.”  I’m still not sure which is which and I don’t know the difference, but there is one.

I also tried bacon wrapped tator tots, which were actually pretty good.  How could you go wrong?  It just didn’t seem terribly unusual and is not something I needed to be at the fair for.

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots- Fair Food at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

The last on the list of artery clogging nonsense was fried peaches and cream.  This made me wish it was just regular peaches and cream.  It’s the only food I know of that was actually made worse by frying.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I guess I did learn something at the fair.

Fried Peaches and Cream- Fair Food at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

And let’s take a moment to talk about the drinking.  It is both necessary and expensive.  I was happy to see that I could buy something that wasn’t Bud Light, but I was not happy to spend $10 on it.

The Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

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~The Animals~

This is where the fair lost me.  I am not a crazy animal activist.  I eat meat (obviously).  I wear leather. I’ll go to a zoo or aquarium. I have no problem with anything like that, but this just bummed me out.  I watched a pig race that seemed pretty okay, even if their punny pig name game was a bit off.  I watched a bear show that I was medium okay with.  The bears were trained, but it seems like they were kept in a safe environment.  They had been used in all sorts of movies and TV shows.

Bear Show at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Then there was the petting zoo.  The petting zoo featured a small cage with lot and lots and lots of goats, a zebra in a dog run, and saddest of all was “Twigg’s”.   Not only is his name grammatically abysmal (it’s not actually a giraffe owned by someone named Twigg, I checked), he’s stuck in this tiny cage and spends all day reaching to take carrots from grubby kids.  The fur was even rubbed off where his chest was hitting the bars all day.

"Twigg's" Giraffe at  the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

"Twigg's" Giraffe at  the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

"Twigg's" Giraffe at  the Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

How heartbreaking is that?

Maybe it’s just that giraffes are my favorite, but it seems extra sad.  How is this allowed to happen?  This seems like something you would see in a traveling carnival during the depression, not something people would still be okay with in 2015.  I thought we’d evolved past that.  I imagine you’d need some kind of licensing for that too.  I mean, you have to fill out an application and do a home visit when you want to adopt a homeless cat or dog.  Who is overseeing this industry?

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Twigg’s pretty much ruined the rest of my time at the fair and made me feel bad about the $11 I’d spent to support something like that.  I certainly won’t be back for that reason, but even without the animals I don’t think I quite understand the appeal of the fair.  Maybe it’s one of those things you had to grow up with and the nostalgia keeps you coming back.  I feel that way about comic books and super heros.  I wasn’t exposed as a kid and now it’s too late.  I just don’t get it (super heros or the fair).

As with everything though, I’m glad I tried it once.

The Florida State Fair in Tampa, FL 2015

Any fair fans out there?  What am I missing?

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#weekendwanderlust

This post is part of the weekly blog link up, #weekendwanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Carmen’s Luxury Travel, Justin Plus Lauren, and Outbound Adventurer.

23 thoughts on “Deep Fried Americana at The FL State Fair

  1. I understand what you mean about rides, but I’ve always put carnival rides and theme park rides in totally different categories. I used to get Six Flag season passes (and we had 3 different parks here in Texas at one time) and I went to Six Flags probably over 15 times in a year. But I STILL loved carnival rides – especially the spinning ones. 🙂
    Bailey K. recently posted…Hogsmeade – The Wizarding World of Harry PotterMy Profile

    • Mags

      I know what you mean. I used to love spinning rides when I was a kid but now they make me so sick! I don’t know what changed. Maybe I’m just getting old. 🙁

  2. I LOVE state fairs! I have been to my own state fair in Kansas countless times….I have also been to TX and OK…Texas was awesome…much bigger than KS. I think they are so fun and so much to see and eat! I am just a kid at heart!!
    Jamie recently posted…A Date Idea: 5 Reasons to Explore an Antique Mall on Your Next DateMy Profile

    • Mags

      I think maybe I just didn’t go as a kid so it doesn’t feel “child-like” too me. Everyone else loves them though!

  3. That actually looks like a pretty awesome state fair but I am with you I don’t get all excited about things like this. I just feel we often lack culture in America but then again this IS our culture lol. I was most excited when I saw your photo of the beer tent LOL
    Joely Smith recently posted…Spring Scents With Scentbird Review and Coupon CodeMy Profile

    • Mags

      I was most excited when I saw the real life beer tent! Great minds think alike!

  4. Carnival food is usually so good (at least to the one’s I’ve gone to). The ramen pizza sounds like it could be good, but it doesn’t like that appetizing at all. I guess the creators were trying to replicate the popularity of the ramen burger.
    Estrella recently posted…Living Abroad Doesn’t Make You a Better PersonMy Profile

    • Mags

      The ramen pizza was NOT great, but I’ll stand behind the bacon wrapped tator tots. Those were a great idea!

  5. Fair food is so good, but also so bad if you know what I mean. That bear picture is funny.
    Charles McCool recently posted…5 Minutes With Ron and Michele LeggeMy Profile

    • Mags

      I very much know what you mean. I felt like I needed to try everything… then I felt like I needed to throw up.

  6. That poor giraffe!!! I’m normally really into State fairs, but that would have totally ruined it for me too. I can’t believe people think that kind of treatment is ok – and I’m not a hueg animal advocate either, but surely common sense would prevail to know that that’s just plain wrong.
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…10 Epic Australian Bucket List ExperiencesMy Profile

    • Mags

      Right?! I was so surprised that is something that’s still allowed to happen.

  7. First off, loved the animals made out of balloons as they are super cool and the food looks awesome. However, I have to agree with what you said about the bear and the giraffe – I think I would have felt a little uncomfortable with it as well.
    Constance – Foreign Sanctuary recently posted…The End is in Sight & Celebrations – [Photographing 2015] The Seventh WeekMy Profile

    • Mags

      If only all of the animals were made of balloons! That would have been a great fair!

  8. Fairs can be fun if you take them with a grain of salt, knowing ahead of time how they are. No one goes to eat healthy food, so I don’t feel guilty eating one (or two) fried dough. The caged giraffe was too much, though. Seeing that poor thing would have made me lose my fried dough.
    Patti Morrow recently posted…Moroxican Cuisine Crushing It in BajaMy Profile

    • Mags

      I’m certainly not above stuffing my face with some deep fried goodness. Mostly the giraffe freaked me out.

  9. State Fairs are ok, but I prefer local fairs and carnivals more. Never have seen many animals except for farm animals (cuz this is one reason our county started having a annual carnival).
    Debbie Denny recently posted…When You Change Your Clocks – Change Your Batteries!My Profile

    • Mags

      It would have been much better if there were no animals. Maybe I should try a smaller county fair.

  10. Most fairs seem sad to me. They’re so small, over priced and dirty. I’m so not a fan of frying everything, I’d starve! lol The New York State Fair is supposed to be great. That one I’d like to go to.
    M from K&M: The Stay-at-Home Life recently posted…Cooking with M: What’s for Dinner? and PrintableMy Profile

    • Mags

      I don’t always eat as healthfully as I should, but I honestly expected better from the food. For that many calories, it should be the best thing I’ve ever tasted!

  11. I love the fair. Fried everything! Last year I had fried pickles, fried artichokes, Oreos and just too much haha
    Tiana recently posted…Summerlin: A Gem in Las VegasMy Profile

    • Mags

      I still haven’t tried fried oreos! I saw them advertised everywhere, but by the time I found them I was already full and sick. 🙁

  12. This must have been so much fun! I bet kids loved the petting zoo! Some of the food looked a bit weird though.

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