The smells, sounds and sights that make the Utah State Fair unique have been around since 1856 nine years after the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley and 40 years before Utah would actually become a state.
The tradition continues on Thursday, when the 2013 fair opens its 11-day run at the Fairpark at 266 N. 1000 West. The fair has been held at this Salt Lake City location since 1902.
More than 280,000 Utahns attend the fair in an average year and they expect to see certain things: colorful carnival rides, barns filled with farm animals, craft displays, home-grown food, grandstand shows and vendors hawking merchandise.
But to stay relevant, fair managers also experiment with new exhibits and entertainment. They like to think that as urban society gets further and further away from rural roots, the Utah State Fair can fill an important role.
"We are more relevant than ever before as more people become interested in where our food comes from," said Jeff Kooring, director of sales and marketing for the fair. "We provide the opportunity to see, touch and smell where our food comes from. We have added more categories such as backyard gardening. Next year we will add backyard chickens for egg producing."
Trying unusual foods also is part of the state fair experience.
This year look for chocolate covered bacon waffles, pierogies and deep fried frog legs, said Kooring. Canadian poutine French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds also will be on the menu. The popular "Utah's Own" section returns, showcasing the offerings of the state's food producers.
The Utah Dairy Council, Utah Beef Council, Utah Wool Growers Association and the Utah Farm Bureau also participate with educational displays and competitions.
The grandstand entertainment still features old rockers (38 Special), and tween stars (Disney star Bridgit Mendler's). But this year there is a new emphasis on participatory events with "The Price Is Right Live" and American Pickers. Fairgoers also can attend a full-on beach party, complete with several tons of sand and music by Kahuna Beach Party, a Beach Boys cover band. (See schedule.)
Kooring also said several events emphasize education, especially for kids. These will include Little Hands on the Farm where children learn where their food comes from, demonstrations on backyard gardening, cooking demonstrations, Freddy Fusion who entertains while teaching about science and a program called Chicks 'n Chaps Women's Only Rodeo Clinic.
Non-grandstand shows this year include the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show featuring tree climbing, log running, chopping and sawing and the Great American Duck Races where audience members select a duck to race.
Utah State Fair
Where • Utah State Fairpark, 266 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City
When • Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 6-15
Hours • Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost • Adults $10, Seniors 62 and over $7, youth 6 -12 $7, children 5 and under free.
Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show
Great American Duck Races
NASA's Driven to Explore Exhibit, Sept. 5-8
The Cutest Show on Earth, Sept. 10-15
Young Guns Wild West Fun Park, Sept. 10-15
Ice Cream Festival, Sept,. 9 from 3 to 9 p.m., $3 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.
Beef Feast, Sept. 13, $6 for tenderloin sandwich, starting at 11 a.m. Grandstand Entertainment
Thursday • Plain White T's, 7:30 p.m., $20 in advance, $26 day of show.
Friday • Amy Grant, 7:30 p.m., $24 in advance, $29 day of show.
Saturday • American Pickers "Treasures of Trash," 7:30, free; seating ticket required.
Sunday • Love and Theft, 7:30, free; seating ticket required.
Monday • Bridgit Mendler, 7:30 p.m., $22 advance purchase, $27 day of the show.
Tuesday • 38 Special, 7:30 p.m., $22 advanced purchase, $27 day of show.
Sept. 11 • Caleb Chapman's Crescent Super Band with special guest Poncho Sanchez, 7:30 p.m., free; seating ticket required.
Sept. 12 • The Price Is Right Live, 5 p.m., reserved seat tickets $22, $29, $37, $5 more the day of show.
Sept. 13 • Texaco Country Showdown, 7 p.m., free.
Sept. 14 • Kahuna Beach Party, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., $15 adults, kids 12 and under free with fair gate admission.
Sept. 15 • Ramon Ayala, 7:30 p.m., $22 advance, $27 day of show.