73rd annual South Texas State Fair

73rd annual South Texas State Fair

Funnel cakes, turkey legs, alligator-on-a-stick. Have some pork kabobs, donut burgers, candy apples, popcorn and a plethora of fried snacks. Just about anything you can think of to eat is available from more than 75 food vendors at the 73rd annual South Texas State Fair on the grounds of Ford Park, which begins Thursday, March 24, with the 11-day festival of fun ending Sunday, April 3.

Gates will open at 6 p.m. next Thursday and there is literally something for everyone. Some come for the food. Some come for the games, carnival rides, exhibits, live music and the rodeo.

New this year at the fair will be sandcastles inside the Ford Exhibit Hall. Sculptors will get their hands on 50 tons of sand and create all sorts of eye-popping sandcastles.

And for the first time, cannon expert Freddy Perez will entertain fairgoers by blowing balloons out of cannons, and on Easter Sunday (March 27), he will replace the balloons with Easter eggs.

H-E-B Kids Fun Zone

Fun yet educational, the H-E-B Kids Fun Zone will feature games, food and the new Monster Mural, a 20-foot by 5-foot interactive coloring wall designed for kids of any age.

The Double R Exotics Petting Zoo returns with nearly every animal you can think of — from the most exotic to the typical farm animal — so grab a handful of treats for feeding time.

Camel and pony rides are also available for $5 per ride.

The Southwest Dairy Museum Mobile Classroom will appear on the Ford Pavilion Stage, offering a demonstration of the mechanical milking process.

If that’s not enough, the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs are sure to entertain and put a smile on your face. Plus, this year you can see a pig that actually dives!

Rodeo

The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) will hold two rodeos inside Ford Arena on Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 26, at 5 p.m. General admission seating is free with the purchase of a fair ticket.

The PRCA showcases the country’s top cowboys and cowgirls and promotes high quality, professional rodeo. To ensure high standards of rodeo entertainment, “Nutty” Jerry Nelson, a native of Southeast Texas, will again be providing the stock for the rodeo. Owner of Frontier Rodeo, Nelson has the top stock in the rodeo world. Eight-time world champion Don Gay will provide the play-by-play.

March 24 (opening day), the YMBL will host the Harold Engstrom Memorial Special Kids Rodeo. Named after the late Harold Engstrom, who started this annual event, the primary goal is for hundreds of mentally and or physically challenged youngsters from the area to attend this special outing.

Free entertainment

If music is a must, then the fair has you covered. There is a variety of local flavor set to perform each night on the Sweet Southern Sound Stage including David Joel, J.A.G., Generations, Jeff Rainey as “ELVIS,” Larry Tillery & The Vagabond Dreamers, Still Cruisin’, Kenny & the Klassics, Danny Dillon and Pug Johnson, LSCPA Section 51, Tin Pan Alley, Jefferson Revival, The Ron Jeremies, Christy Sheffield Band, Bryce Shaver Band, Curse & The Cure, Baylei McGowan, Zach Gonzales, Shaylee Sarver, Nickel Dream, Reed Planchard and Drivin’ Dixie, B.B. & Company, Heather & the Hellcats and LN & the Crush.

Carnival midway

The Bill Hames Show is a tradition at the South Texas State Fair that dates back to more than 50 years.

Don’t forget to take a ride on the Ferris wheel, which stands more than 60 feet tall.

Individual tickets are $1, and a strip of 24 tickets is $20. Unlimited-ride wristbands are available for certain nights (March 24, March 26-27, March 30, April 3).

Exhibit hall

The exhibition hall will feature new automobiles sponsored by Texas Ford Dealers, and over 100 vendors selling collectables, home improvement items, cell phones, jewelry, purses and much more.

Texas Marine will also have over 40 boats on display, including bass boats, bay boats, off-shore boats, pleasure boats, aluminum boats and jet boats.

Livestock show & auction

Youngsters have a chance to showcase their hard work and animals at the YMBL Livestock and Poultry Show, along with the Junior Poultry and Livestock Auctions.

A complete schedule can be found at ymbl.org, with auction nights set for March 30-31. From lambs and goats to longhorns, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, turkeys and steers, all of the proceeds of the auction will go directly back the youths.

Admission

Admission to the fair for adults aged 13-64 is $8, while senior citizens over the age of 65 pay $4. Youth ages 3-12 are $4, and kids 2 and younger get in free.

There are plenty of promotional nights beginning Good Friday, March 25, with Education First Family Fun Day; Kids’ Day on March 26; Conn’s Home Plus Senior Citizens Day on March 27; Koch Pipeline $1 night on March 28; $2 Tuesday Night on March 29; Sonic Drive-in Buddy Night on March 30; Entergy Military Appreciation Night on March 31; and Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper Cantastic Sunday on April 3.

YMBL cares

The YMBL sponsors many events throughout the year, including the Babe Zaharias Memorial Relays, volleyball and boys and girls basketball tournaments.

The YMBL also regularly donates to local charities including the 100 Club of Southeast Texas, the Garth House, the Anayat House, American Cancer Society, Some Other Place and many others.

Since 1957, the South Texas State Fair, which is the YMBL’s only yearly fundraiser, has attracted an estimated attendance of more than half a million annually from 10 counties in Southeast Texas and three Southwest Louisiana parishes. Although a nonprofit committee of the YMBL, the fair provides its sponsoring organization with more than 90 percent of its total revenue, which the YMBL shares with the community in direct gifts to local and area charitable organizations, youth projects, civic programs and other efforts to aid the elderly and those in need.

For complete fair information, call (409) 832-9991 or view ymbl.org.

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