Fair thee well: 83rd Arkansas State Fair offers rides, food, music and competition

Fairgoers crowd the fairway during the last day of the 2022 State Fair.

(Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staci Vandagriff)
Fairgoers crowd the fairway during the last day of the 2022 State Fair. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staci Vandagriff)

Ten days of food, fun and family entertainment are expected to draw tens of thousands of fans and participants as the 83rd Arkansas State Fair opens Friday and runs through Oct. 22 at the State Fairgrounds in Little Rock.

The fair set an all-time record of 539,358 fairgoers in 2021, topping the previous mark of 473,106, set in 2015. The 2022 fair had the second-highest attendance, 476,114.

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"Nationally speaking, fairs have always been a big deal all over the country," Tiffany Wilkerson, who took over as the fair's general manager in January, said in news release. "The last few years we've ranked in the top 50 and we're very proud of that."

Wilkerson says visitors may notice some physical changes to the grounds -- work over the summer replaced air conditioning units on two of the buildings, constructed enhanced security fencing around the perimeter and rehabbed some of parking areas with a fresh layer of gravel.

This year, the fair will impose a curfew for younger attendees: Those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 21 from 6 p.m. to close every night of the fair. The goal, according to the news release, is to "maintain order and provide a safe and fun experience for all."

  photo  Carnival rides are an integral part of the Arkansas State Fair. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Colin Murphey)


North American Midway Entertainment of Farmland, Ind., which provides the carnival for 12 of the 50 largest fairs in North America, is providing this year's carnival attractions. A list of rides is still pending.

  photo  Lexi Henson tries her hand at the ring toss game at the 2022 Arkansas State Fair. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staci Vandagriff)


Most evenings during the fair will feature concerts in a variety of genres by national touring acts. Admission is free once you've paid your gate admission; general seating is first-come first-served. However, preferred concert seating -- in a reserved area, plus "other perks" -- is available for an additional $20.

The lineup:

◼️ Friday: Country singer Phil Vassar with special guest Matt Stell (raised in Center Ridge)

◼️ Saturday: Morris Day and The Time

◼️ Sunday: La Cultura Nortena with Los Reyes

◼️ Monday: Jettway Music School with the Zac Dunlap Band

◼️ Tuesday: Crowder and Nick Hall (Faith and Family Night, presented by Amplify)

◼️ Wednesday: Soul singer J-Wonn

◼️ Oct. 19: Balladeers All-4-One

◼️ Oct. 20: Country rockers Uncle Kracker

◼️ Oct. 21: '80s hair metal band Night Ranger

◼️ Oct. 22: La Fuerza Del Rio Conchos with La Tropa Del Norte (presented by Tito's Handmade Vodka, part of its Hispanic Concert Series).


Fair concessionaires are offering everything from ice cream and pizza to turkey legs and cotton candy. New this year: Happi Lao Foods (egg rolls, sesame balls), Bryan's Concessions (sirloin tips) and Mexican Corn ("Flamin' Hot Cheetos walking taco").

Returning food vendors and their specialties: Big Show Diner (Southern comfort food, fresh pies daily), Center Stage Grill (Taco salad, nachos), Gold's Concessions (turkey legs), Gold' Boss Hogg (ribs, chicken, pork chops), Ozark Candies & Nuts (roasted pecans and almonds), Michener Kettle Corn (pig skins, kettle corn), SW Special Events (cotton candy, candy apples), Fried What?! ("deep fried sweet and savory treats"), Sue Sue's Concessions ("bacon central"), McKinney's Corn Dogs (footlong corn dogs), Bennett Concessions (cowboy burger, Krazy Frys), Gold's Skillett (Kool-Aid pickles, Reuben sandwiches), Corky Westmoreland's (elephant ears), Swain's Pizza (pizza on a stick, pickle pizza), Wonderstick Ice Cream (ice cream);

Linda's Lemonade SW (lemonade shakeup), Ormics Dippin Dots (Dippin' Dots ice cream), Ormics Mickey's Grill (kebabs, turkey legs), Roger Westmoreland Concessions (funnel cake, nachos), Ormics Taco Kings (tacos, burritos), SW Chris Corn Dogs (corn dogs), Larry's Gator House (gator on a stick, boudin), L&M Concessions (frosted-flake chicken), Paizi's Greek Foods (gyros, pitas), Pat's Kitchen (Thanksgiving tacos, fried lasagna), H2QUE BBQ (barbecue sandwiches, pork waffles), Bennett Concessions (street tacos), Midway Café/Arkansas Cattlemen ("carnivore delicacies"), SW Candyman (cotton candy, candy apples), State Fair Funnel Cakes (funnel cakes), SW Two Brother (pineapple whip), Bud & Burgers (hamburgers, Frito pie), Mr. Keith's Kettle Corn (gourmet popcorn), Millie's (fish, shrimp).

Also back this year is Lunch at the Fair, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays (sponsored by Entergy), with free parking and free gate admission.

  photo  Shelby Parsons shares a moment with the pig she was showing during the 2022 Arkansas State Fair. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Colin Murphey)


Exhibitors, mostly youngsters, from across the state are bringing their prize cattle, sheep, swine, goats, rabbits and poultry to compete for blue ribbons and Grand Champion rosettes. A full schedule of judging by category is available at the fair website.

The annual Sale of Champions takes place 5-9 p.m. Oct. 19 in Barton Coliseum on the fairgrounds. The event raises money in a mock auction for the top competitors across various species.

Fairgoers can get up close and personal with various animals at the petting zoo, presented by Arkansas 4-H chapters. Entry is free with gate admission.

  photo  Suzanne Coburn, a student at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, ices a cupcake during a demonstration at the 2022 Arkansas State Fair. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staci Vandagriff)


Competitions take place throughout the fair across a range of hobby and homemaking categories, including cooking and baking, art and photography and needlework. A complete schedule is available at the fair website.

Among the special contests and demonstrations: the Adult Open Bake Competition, noon Saturday; the State Fair Pie Contest, 12:15 p.m. Monday; the Hiland Dairy Cooking Contest at 12:15 p.m. and the Petit Jean Meats Cooking Contest at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday; the Arkansas Cattlewomen's Chili Cookoff and the Arkansas Cattlemen's Brisket Competition, 1:45 p.m. Wednesday; and the People's Choice Cookie Contest, 1 p.m. Oct. 20.


83rd Arkansas State Fair

When: Friday-Oct. 22

Where: State Fairgrounds, 2600 Howard St., Little Rock. Gates open at 11 a.m. each day.

Admission: $8 in advance, $12 at the gate; for children 6-12, $4 and $6. Ride bands are $30 in advance, $35 at the gate.

A list of daily promotions and discounts is available at ArkansasStateFair.com.

(501) 372-8341


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