State Fair of Texas Brings Jobs to Dallas

October 19, 2011 by · Comments Off 

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Meghan Sikkel
msikkel@smu.edu

The Texas Star Ferris Wheel at the Texas State Fair. (Photo by Megan Sikkel/Beyond the Bubble Staff)

Andre Carter calls out to the masses at the State Fair of Texas, urging passers-by to take a shot at his ball toss carnival game. It’s easy, he says. Just toss the ball lightly against the board, so it falls into the basket. Watch me; I’ll show you how!

Throngs of people rush by, paying little attention to Carter as he demonstrates the key to winning big at his booth. The carnival game operator doesn’t seem to mind going unnoticed. In fact, he says the frenzied crowds are precisely why he loves his job at the fair.

“I always get to see something different,” Carter said.

It is his seventh year to work at the Texas State Fair, which is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.

In order to work at the 24-day-long event each year, Carter saves his vacation days from his full-time job at FedEx, a practice vice president of public relations for the State Fair Sue Gooding says is common among employees.

“We have many employees that come every year,” Gooding said. “They usually have other jobs but will save vacation time to come out and work at the fair.”

With the unemployment rate in Texas at the highest it has been since 1987, 8.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is important to note the event brings more than just fried foods to the Lone Star State — it brings jobs.

According to Gooding, there is a spike in employment rates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when the fair is in session, as a majority of seasonal employees are from surrounding areas.

Gooding says there are about 3,500 employees on the fair grounds at any given time during the three weeks it is open. Throughout the other 11 months of the year, the fair employs a full-time staff of about 30 people.

State Fair employee Wilma Everitt has worked in the fair’s Women’s Museum for three years. Although she works full time in administration at Dallas’ Baylor University Medical Center, Everitt does not have to use her vacation days to work at the fair thanks to the leniency of her boss.

“I just leave, and they provide coverage. When I return, I take over,” Everitt said.

Everitt says she enjoys working at the fair because she likes meeting people from all over Texas and seeing their enthusiasm.

Elizabeth Reid, who does administrative work for the fair’s creative arts department, has been working for the organization for 30 years. She first became involved with the event through her mother, who also worked in the creative arts department.

“Since my mother was here, I have just always come in,” Reid, 47, said. “I do what she used to do, except now we type on computers.”

A part-time employee of Walmart, Reid doesn’t have to conserve vacation days to work at the fair, although previous full-time jobs have required her to do so in the past.

“If I had a job, I’d work maybe on weekends, or I was able to take some vacation time,” she said. “It’s just something that I’ve always done under some capacity.”

Reid says her passion for the fair stems from the excitement and the people.

“It’s an opportunity to have lots of unique experiences that you don’t get in a lot of other jobs,” she said.

Part of the fair’s uniqueness derives from its title as the largest state fair in the U.S. by annual attendance, according to CarnivalWarehouse.com. With more than 2.6 million attendees last year, the Texas fair is a haven for people watchers like general manager of Desperados Mexican Restaurant Jake Levy.

Levy, who runs the fair’s Desperados concession stand, says working at the event is the largest sociological experiment he has ever been a part of.

Jake Levy and his mother Helen at the Desperados stand. (Photo by Meghan Sikkel/Beyond the Bubble Staff)


“The entire world walks by, both sides of the spectrum and everything in between,” Levy said. “Sometimes it’s frightening. But most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.”

“You see everybody in the world that you know, that you don’t know, that you’re going to meet,” said Helen Levy, Jake Levy’s mother, who works at the Desperados concession stand.

Located just outside the Food and Fiber Pavilion, the Levys’ booth has been in the same spot for 10 years. As a result, Helen Levy says they have developed relationships over the years with the neighboring concession stands, Fletcher’s Corny Dogs and Lone Star Pizza.

“It’s almost like family,” she said. “Things always happen. So you rely on your neighbors, and they come to you.”

Many State Fair employees appreciate the job opportunities the fair offers, even if the crowds can be overwhelming at times.

Although he refers to his time at the fair as his “little vacation” from his restaurant on Greenville Avenue, Jake Levy describes working at the fair as a war of attrition.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life,” he said. “But I love it.”

The Daily Update: Monday, Oct. 18

October 18, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Monday, Oct. 18th from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Join us today to find out about a terror threat in France, if Bin Laden is alive and well in Pakistan and if there is a change of weather coming our way.

Campus News Blog: Texas Offers Fall Break Plans

October 7, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Kassi Schmitt

With fall break nearly here, many SMU students are packing their bags and heading out of the Lone Star State to spend four days away from school, studying and midterm stress.

But for those of you not planning to travel far from the Dallas area for break, here are a couple of relatively cheap and fun weekend/day getaways:

1). Float the river…While the sun is still shining and temperatures are in the 80s, why not grab your swimsuit and your friends and head up to New Braunfels for the day?  (Don’t forget the sunscreen!)

2). Put on those cowboys boots sitting in your closet and head on down to Fort Worth. Visit the Sundance Square downtown or head to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and Industry. You can even grab a juicy Texas-sized steak at H3 Ranch before two-stepping your way over to Billy Bob’s for some good ol’ country music and dancing.

3). Keep Austin weird…There’s plenty to do and see in this crazy city: Take a tour of the capitol building, see the bats under the bridge or go to 6th street for shopping and dining!

4). Feeling outdoorsy? Lake Buchanan is the second largest of the Highland Lakes in Central Texas measuring over 30 miles long. Little cabins and bed and breakfasts are situated right along the edge.  

5). But if you are planning to stay within the city limits, the Texas State Fair is still going on until October 17. Bring your appetite and be sure to try the award-winning Fried Fritos Pie.

VIDEO: Gone Country — What’s The Deal With The BIG Texas State Fair?

October 6, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Howdy y’all! Courtney O’Callaghan and Marissa O’Connor here taking you down the I-45 to the Texas State Fair. As the phrase goes “everything’s bigger in Texas” so it goes without saying that this is the largest state fair nationwide.

Both born and raised in the North we hit the road to pay “Big Tex” a visit and learn more about our new state’s cuisine, culture, and characters.

And we’re off!

Gone Country: We’re off to the Texas Fair! from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Cuisine: “You watch your cholesterol all year for this food”
Guacamole. Beer. PB & J. You name it, it’s fried here. Were we skeptical? Of course. But we decided that when it comes to experiencing Texas food, go big or go home.

Gone Country: Enjoying Texas Cuisine from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Culture: “Way down in Texas we got our own style”
Is there more to Texas than barbeque and big hair? Of course, there’s football. Only kidding! We found the state has a strong sense of tradition and a spirit like no other.

Gone Country: Learning the Texas Style from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Characters: “We got heart and we got nerve, even if we are a bit disturbed”
After a fun-filled Friday spent at the fair we learned it truly was the people that made our experience. All the people we talked to exerted southern hospitality, allowing us an insiders view on the rich history and tradition in the Lone Star State.

Gone Country: Meeting True Texans from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

We hope y’all have a great fall break and that you’ll join us for our next Texas experience as we comb through the history behind the Texas Tease.

Song Credits: “Gone Country” by Allan Jackson; “Texas Cookin’” by George Strait; “Down in Texas” by Jerry Jeff Walker; “These Are My People” by Rodney Atkins

State Fair Food: Not For The Faint of Heart…Or Stomach

October 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Natalie Blankenship, Laura Cook, Nicole Jacobsen, Felicia M. Logan, Allison Prenger, and Kyle Spencer
Posted by Elizabeth Lowe

Editor’s Note:
It’s Fair time in Texas – whip out the deep friers! SMU student journalists set out during the State Fair of Texas’ opening week to do heavy investigative work. Their questions: Which fried food is the best-of-the-best in the Lone Star state? And how many corndogs, frito pies, and the like can one eat in a single Fair day?
For the classier side of Fair life, check out our article on Fair wine.

Feature writing students chow-down with Professor Karen Thomas at the Texas State Fair. (PHOTO BY FELICIA LOGAN / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The day started out with six students and six empty stomachs.
The mission: to taste all the fried foods the Texas State Fair has to offer.

To our avail we found that just because it’s fried, doesn’t mean it’s gold(en). Some of the more wacky foods include fried beer and fried butter (note: no one was brave enough to try the latter). Everything is fried but the kitchen sink- well maybe next year.

So bring your bank accounts, your economy sized bottle of Tums and your appetite and saddle up partner!

Corndog Classic

Ok, so you’re not feeling adventurous right off the bat to try foods like fried beer and grilled gator, and your stomach is looking for a food that’s familiar and oh-so-good. Well look no further State Fair fans, the scrumptious Corny Dog is here to satisfy your taste buds.

Brought to Texas by Carl and Neil Fletcher in the late 1930’s, the corny dog has been around the fair longer than most. A hot dog on a stick is coated in corn meal then fried revealing a golden cardiac nightmare that is heaven.

The dog however is on the pricey side, costing a whopping 9 tickets or $4.50. But with the many varieties such as foot-long and jalapeño and cheese you won’t even notice your wallet getting lighter as you’ll be too busy in utter bliss.

P.S. A more affordable “Dollar Dog” is available.

High in the Sky with Frito Pie

Next to the corny dog, Fried Texas Frito Pie had to be one of the best things your taste buds have ever experienced.

They come in little packages of goodness that resemble the shape and color of a hush puppy. However, the inside of them is very different, and significantly better.

The inside of Fried Texas Frito Pie is like a bowl full of Texas spirit. It is warm, melty, and oozing with cheese. One taste and you’re done for. Two, and you might as well just die and go to heaven. The chili filling is just that good.

And that might be the best way to describe it- and petite chili bite. Wash it down with a fried margarita, and you my friend have got yourself a meal.

Bite-size chili bites, or frito pie, were a hit at the State Fair of Texas. (PHOTO BY ALLISON PRENGER / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The Good, The Bad, The Fried Libations

Fried food is a staple of the Texas State Fair, but fried beer, margaritas and lemonade?

These three thirst quenchers take fried food innovations to an entirely new level. Imagine biting into an over-salted, cold piece of ravioli. If that doesn’t sound disgusting enough, add cold, bitter beer oozing into your mouth.

The biggest challenge comes three seconds later as you attempt to chew and swallow the watered down, salty mess. For those brave enough to try the award winning, most creative treat, beware, awards are not always distributed to recognize greatness.

Fortunately, the fried libations redeemed themselves as the day progressed. Fried lemonade reminds one of biting into a warm lemon-flavored pound cake. The gooey ball was topped off with a lemonade glaze and powdered sugar and “lemon zest.” A nice, refreshing treat compared to the sodium-enriched corndogs and fried Frito Pie.

Last, but definitely not least, the fried frozen margaritas received two thumbs up.

Brought to you by Desperados on Greenville, the sweet and salty treat contained funnel cake batter that is soaked in lemon/lime margarita mix and tequila then served in a margarita glass rimmed with salt. More margarita mix is added to the glass before the treat is topped off with a dollop of whip cream.

P.S. To purchase fried beer or deep-fried frozen margaritas, all fair-goers must present a valid ID proving they are of legal drinking age.

Fried Gator or Rubber?

Grilled alligator usually tastes like moist, baked chicken, but this grilled alligator leaves one’s mouth hot and salty and much to the imagination. It tastes more like well- marinated leather. If you like to chew on heavily seasoned rubber bands, this entrée is for you.

Fair Delicacies – Texas Style

Menu Reads “Fried Texas Caviar.” Keyword: Texas.

Don’t go expecting exotic roe, or fish eggs. Texas caviar is simple nicely seasoned, fried black-eyed peas.

Appearance-wise, they bare a striking resemblance to baby beetles, however they actually taste similar to corn nuts. For the health-conscious connoisseurs, this one gets two thumbs up.

All Things Dessert

Chocolate lovers—get ready for an explosion of bittersweet chocolate.

A small donut-looking fried ball, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and resting in the middle of a whipped cream moat, the fried chocolate appears as soon as you take a bite. The chocolate is on the inside- it’s rich, and it’s bittersweet. The perfect amount of chocolate, but you can only have one.

The creamy mixture of warm chocolate and the powdered sugar on the outside is sure to please even the chocolate-obsessed.

The only con? It’s pretty small for the price you pay- $5. Pro? You will consume less and you will avoid a stomach ache.

One of the most normal sounding fried desserts at the Fair is the fried peaches and cream.

A perfect plate of peaches and cream - Texas Fair style. (PHOTO BY NATALIE BLANKENSHIP / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Large Georgia peaches are battered, breaded and fried, then served with whipped cream, a raspberry sauce and last but not least, a butter cream dipping sauce. The end result is reminiscent of a peach cobbler.

The fried peaches are the perfect sweet treat to share, as four peach slices are included with a single order. For those a little skeptical of tasting one of the fair’s many outrageous fried goodies, the fried peaches are the perfect icebreaker.

At ten tickets per order, the fried peaches are one of the more expensive dishes, but they rival the classic funnel cake in popularity and are a southern fair staple.

Customers around us ordered all the fried sweet stuff you can possibly imagine. Fried chocolate, fried s’mores, fried cookie dough and fried PB & J. The sweet and buttery smell of fried food filled the air, and the lines kept growing and growing.

A rather large woman stepped up to order one of each item on the menu, speaking with confidence as if she was a seasoned Texas State Fair fried food eater. Fried chocolate with a side of French fries? Not for me.

A Taste of Texas Wine

October 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Marissa O’Connor
moconnor@smu.edu

At this year’s Texas State Fair you can sample some of Texas’ finest homegrown food and drinks; corndogs, fried margaritas, guacamole, fried lattes, and wine produced in the Texas Hill Country.

A number of Texas wineries have assembled a wine garden as a relaxing oasis for those who need a break from the ferris wheel and fried chicken. For just two tickets visitors can sample a variety of different red and white wines while enjoying live music.

A Rich Heritage

The Lone Star State is well known for it’s rich history in oil, football, and barbeque. What many people don’t know is that Texas also has a long tradition in wine production, dating as far back as the 1600’s. More than a hundred years before grapes were planted in California, Spanish missionaries began planting grapes near present day El Paso.

In the 1800’s European settlers came to South and Central Texas. Using grapevine cuttings brought over from their native countries some Europeans established vineyards. In the late 19th century, back in France, grape growers faced a devastating epidemic of phylloxera, tiny insects that feed on the roots of grapevines.

It was a Texan who was credited for saving the French wine industry during this time.

“A guy named Thomas (T.V) Munson from Denison, Texas used the Texas grapevines and grafted it onto phylloxera resistant rootstalk so they wouldn’t die,” said Bob White of Texoma Wineries. “That’s why today Cognac, France is sister cities with Denison, Texas.”

And a Promising Future

After prohibition, wine production did not really start up again in Texas until the 1970’s at that point, California’s wine production was booming.

“Though wine has been around in Texas since before the prohibition it is becoming more and more popular in recent years,” said White.

The media has begun to notice the increasing popularity of Texas wine, and this September Texas Hill Country was ranked the top “hidden-gem” among U.S. wine regions according to Away.com

“I absolutely love it that you can go to wineries right here in Texas to learn and sample all different tastes,” said Tessi John, a Mansfield resident. “Austin has a great Hill Country perfect for making wine and many people in Texas don’t even realize it.”

Texas is currently the 5th largest wine producing state in the country and the industry continues to grow.

“Texas wine stacks up fairly well,” said John White, a Dallas resident. “As a native of California I’m prejudice, but as an adopted Texan now, Texas wine definitely outshines New York wine.

If local wineries can market their brand properly, White believes Texas wine will bring good competition for wine produced in California and Europe.

“Get yourself a Texas six-shooter, a six-pack of wine, that should sell right there,” said White. “I think Texas wine will definitely catch on nationally, wineries just need to market it better so more people across the globe know about the rising of the Texas wine industry.”

The Wine Garden of The Texas State Fair features wines only grown in Texas. It is open through October 17th from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Mondays, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.