This year’s South Texas State Fair, scheduled for Thursday, March 27 – Sunday, April 6, at Ford Park will give Southeast Texans an opportunity to get out of the house after an unusually long, cold winter and enjoy some of the best food, games, rides and entertainment offered in the state.
With a myriad of attractions including the new H-E-B Kids Fun Zone, more than 40 Carnival Americana rides (including three new rides), The YMBL Championship Rodeo featuring Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) bull riders, more than 75 food vendors and top notch music and entertainment, the South Texas State Fair continues to not only be a premiere springtime affair, but also something that many Southeast Texans look forward to throughout the year.
H-E-B Kids Fun Zone
The 2014 H-E-B Kids Fun Zone promises not to disappoint the kiddos as H-E-B — which has garnered quite a reputation as of late for coming up with innovative and educational family fun — does it again with its all-new Monster Mural, a 20 foot by 5 foot interactive coloring wall designed for kids of all ages.
“The kids will be using washable markers to paint the mural,” said 2014 Fair Chairman Bill Collins. “It’s actually erasable so we can reuse it next year.”
The kids zone will also feature a 25-foot inflatable H-E-Buddy, the Double R Exotics Petting Zoo, camel and pony rides, professional story tellers Mary and Neil Early, and the Southwest Dairy Museum Mobile Classroom, which will feature a demonstration of the mechanical milking process.
Scheduled birthday parties will also be available at the kids zone. For more information, visit your local H-E-B store.
YMBL Championship Rodeo
If you have never experienced the thrill and excitement of professional rodeo, don’t miss this opportunity to watch the bulls and the blood as PRCA comes to Ford Arena March 28 and 29. With NFR and PBR quality stock and World Champion Cowboys, the 2014 YMBL Rodeo will be one of the best rodeos this side of Las Vegas with Southeast Texas native Jerry Nelson, owner of Frontier Rodeo, providing the stock for the rodeo and eight-time PRCA world champion bull rider Don Gay providing the play-by-play.
“They’ll be bull riding, barrel racing, mutton busting, bronco busting, and steer wrestling,” said YMBL board member Wayne Stokely.
General admission seating at the rodeo is free with the purchase of a fair gate admission ticket on the day of each rodeo performance. Advance reserved seats are on sale on the YBML website. Four and six seat blocks are available.
Visit www.ymbl.org  for more information.
New to the fair this year will be go-cart races by Golden Triangle Raceway Park held inside the Ford Arena on Saturday, April 5, at 3 p.m. Admission is free with the purchase of a fair gate admission ticket the day of the races.
“We’re expecting to pull some top-notch kid drivers from across Texas and Louisiana,” said Collins.
As far as musical entertainment, fairgoers will be in for a treat as Nashville Star television show finalist Coffey Anderson takes the stage Saturday, March 29, at 9 p.m.
A Bangs, Texas, native, Anderson blends country music with pop, contemporary Christian, gospel and soul and has released eight albums, including a self-titled album that reached no. 134 in the Billboard 200 in 2010.
Also taking the stage will be Beaumont’s own David Joel, a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who puts in a hard day’s work before grabbing his guitar and heading off to music gigs.
Joel plays Texas country laced with southern rock. You’ve probably seen him playing at one of your favorite local hangouts.
Joel has a big heart too, recently performing with his buddy Brad Brinkley at a fundraiser for the family of Vidor teen Lexy Bertrand, who died following a horrible car crash in February.
Joel is scheduled to perform Friday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 29, at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m.; and Saturday, April 5, at 5 p.m.
Brinkley, who released his single “Table for Two” in 2013 through Bou Boy’z Entertainment, will perform Saturday, April 5, at 5 p.m., said Robert Jacobs, head of the YMBL entertainment division this year.
Other musical entertainment includes Time Travel Band, Z-Fitness Zumba, Corey Mitchell Band, LSPA Section 51, Orange Community Band, Christy Sheffield Band, Last Resort, Sabine River Bend Bluegrass, Dance Funk, Hello February Band, Lamar Drum Line, Casey Chesnutt, Silas Feemster, Keith Kire and Bryce Shaffer.
All concerts are free with fair admission and will take place at the Plaza Entertainment Stage.
On the final Sunday, April 6, the Plaza Entertainment Stage will also feature some of the finest Hispanic entertainers in our area such as DJ Valdez, DJ EPI, Lucha Libre, Kumbion Zelekta & Los Cazadores.
Other entertainment will include the Caboodlestoppers — a family friendly comedy spectacular including stilt-walking, balloon-a-tics, slapstick musical acts and skits.
Caboodlestoppers features Rhymin’ Simon the Pedaling Poet, one-man band Jim Herrington and balloon-making pirates.
The Flores Family Thrill Show will dazzle fairgoers as well with motorcycle maneuvers and dangerous antics and feats. Watch a woman balance precariously on a swaying pole 65 feet above the ground. See several motorcyclists drive in a circular steel cage a split second from danger. See a motorcycle maneuver on a high wire 80 feet above the ground.
The Flores Family Thrill Show has performed on ESPN2, “Extra” entertainment TV, at state fairs from Louisiana to New Jersey, amusement parks and numerous other events and venues. The Thrill Show is completely self-contained and includes state-of-the-art lighting, sound and pyrotechnics.
Returning to the fair this year due to its popularity will be the Live Stingray Encounter, where guests learn about stingrays as well as other sea creatures while actually touching or feeding them in the Ford Park Exhibit Hall.
Livestock show and auction
Youngsters have a chance to showcase their hard work and animals at YMBL’s Livestock and Poultry Shows and Junior Poultry and Livestock Auctions. The poultry auction is scheduled for Wednesday, April 2, and the livestock auction is set for Thursday, April 3.
“We’ve got steers, we’ve got Brahman, goats, lambs, pigs, chickens, rabbits … ducks, turkeys,” said Rudy Garcia, who is in charge of the YMBL livestock division in 2014.
All exhibitors are cautioned to read carefully the rules and regulations available for viewing at ymbl.org, as they will be strictly enforced without deviation of any kind.
The money raised through the auction allows the young participants a chance to attend college and the auction is something they prepare for years to enter.
“There is 100 percent payback to our kids,” Collins said. “We keep no money through the auction. There are kids that put themselves through college just from selling their animals here.”
“This is the only fair left where they (exhibitors) get all the money,” said Garcia.
In addition, Garcia said the Children’s Barnyard, one of the top attractions every year where grown-ups and children alike can pet and hold baby animals and birds, will feature lowline cattle, a breed of small, polled beef cattle roughly three and a half feet tall. Developed by breeders in Australia, they are said to be docile in nature and are growing in popularity in the U.S., used as pets and suitable for showing by children.
The barnyard is maintained and tended by groups of local 4-H and FFA Club members and open daily during the fair.
Food and exhibits
A staple attraction each year at the South Texas State Fair is the plethora of food choices available from more than 75 different food vendors — food that includes about anything imaginable fried and on a stick, and everybody’s favorite, funnel cake. From Nathan’s famous frankfurters to Cajun food and Tex- Mex, the fair covers all the bases.
“We do have Indian food out here this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen curry out here,” said Wayne Stokely, who is head of the YMBL food and concession division in 2014. “
“We have Doug (Jones) who has the tamale slammers and smoked meatloaf, which is good,” Stokely said. “We have one vendor that has donut burgers. We have crawfish cornbread from Comeaux’s (Cuisine). Plenty of barbecue and pork kabobs.”
Stokely said the Exhibit Hall will also have more than 100 vendors selling collectables, home improvement items, cell phones, jewelry, purses and much more. Texas Marine will have more than 40 boats on display in the Ford Exhibit Hall including bass boats, bay boats, off-shore boats, pleasure boats, aluminum boats and jet boats, and Texas Ford Dealers will feature an exhibit of new automobiles.
Funds raised go to good cause
“We sponsor so much,” Collins said, mentioning The Babe Zaharias Memorial Relays —which allow special-needs children from Southeast Texas an opportunity to develop physical, social and psychological skills through events like the 100 Yard Dash, Softball Throw, Football Relay, Sack Relays, Obstacle Course and everyone’s favorite, the Tug-O-War — the YMBL/STPGA Jr. Golf Tournament, another great youth project, sanctioned by the STPGA and open to all junior golfers who are members of the STPGA, as well as a volleyball tournament and the longest running basketball tournament in the state of Texas.
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.
The South Texas State Fair is an important source of funds for these benevolent efforts, Collins said.
“This is our largest and our only fundraiser that we do,” he said.
“The Young Men’s Business League strives to improve the general welfare of the city and area,” according to the YMBL website. “It develops and pursues programs which will maintain and improve the city’s educational facilities and opportunities and undertakes activities to enhance the agricultural and commercial resources of the area. YMBL takes part in projects which will benefit the youth as well as the elderly and is ever mindful of the needs of the community in fields of health and welfare, public works and civic improvement, governmental leadership and spiritual guidance.”
For Southeast Texas State Fair admission prices and deals, visit www.ymbl.org/tickets-and-deals.aspx 
There are several deal days with reduced prices including Kid’s Day Saturday, Conn’s Ladies Night, and Coca-Cola Cantastic Sunday.
“We’re praying for good weather,” said YMBL president Jessie Gonzales. “People are ready to come out. Even on Facebook, we had over 10,000 (likes).”
“If we can have 11 days of good weather. I think our patrons will enjoy it as well as us. We’re expecting a higher attendance and we’re anxious to get it open,” Collins added.