DALLAS — Fall has arrived, which means the State Fair of Texas is in full swing.

The fair has been running since 1886 and is considered to be a true Texas tradition. It runs from September 27 to October 20, making it the longest fair in the country. From rodeos to roller coasters, the fair is filled with true Texan spirit. As a California native, I am still becoming accustomed to the Texas lifestyle. I had to take a trip to the fair myself to be a part of this Lone Star experience.

The fair kicked off with a ‘Military Appreciation Day.’ Free admission was given to service members and veterans. All I had to do was flash my military identification card at the gate. Many service members and veterans attended, including Soldiers from the Great Place.

Along the way, I bumped into another Soldier who had jumped at the prospect of scoring free entry.

“I always make sure to take advantage of opportunities to have fun,” Pvt. Armaun Smith, III Corps, said. “I heard the fair is a big event here and I wanted to check it out with some friends, since we could get in for free.”

As I entered the gates of the fair, I was immediately overwhelmed with the smell of good ol’ Texas barbecue, up-beat music and crowds of cheerful people. At every corner, I spotted someone with either a stick of cotton candy, stuffed animal or hand-in-hand with someone. Every game booth was vibrantly decorated with a variety of prizes, from stuffed teddy bears to Pikachus. The fair was truly the ‘hottest’ spot to be – the weather was 90 degrees.

I fled to the nearest food stand, but quickly learned one major caveat; no cash was being accepted. The fair uniquely used tickets (labeled as coupons on the menus) as a form of currency, which could be purchased at ‘coupon booths.’ Rides, games and food were accessible through the tickets.

For $30, I purchased 60 tickets. I quickly learned that this would not be enough to enjoy my day, since a barbecue plate combo cost 40 coupons. Nonetheless, I still purchased the combo, along with more tickets, and thoroughly enjoyed my barbecue quarter-chicken meal and my time at the fair.

The highlight for me was taking a ride on the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. I purposely waited for the sunset to overlook the skyline, to go up and around. At a little over 200 feet in there air, I was able to enjoy the view of downtown Dallas as the sun began to fade behind the sky rise. It was for sure a great “eye in the sky”.

The State Fair of Texas was vast, colorful and truthfully an experience of a lifetime. The fair had over 70 rides – more than I have ever seen on any fairground.

Even with such a packed crowd, staff members were friendly and contributed to the true feel of Texan hospitality at the fair. For more information about the fair, you can visit https://bigtex.com/.