Deep-fried Oreos. Chocolate-covered bacon. Sculpted butter cow. Aaah! It’s state fair time! When’s the last time you had deep-fried Snickers, cheese curds, or a funnel cake? If it’s been a while, you need to pack your RV, because state fairs are great destinations for RVers.
State fairs celebrate the uniqueness of every state. It all begins with the agriculture of the state. You can expect to see agricultural judging, demonstrations, animals, and state-renowned products. You’ll also see a variety of hand-made items, like quilts, jewelry, and much, much more. The fairs usually feature local and national entertainment, along with a midway of rides and games for all ages. And then, there’s the food. Locally grown produce, along with state fair novelty foods will keep your taste buds smiling.
History of the fairs
In the early 1800s, sheep farmer Elkanah Watson brought two of his prized Merino sheep to the town square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. There, Watson demonstrated his sheep shearing abilities and also promoted the sheep’s wonderful Merino wool. Watson’s “sheep parades” grew crowds each time he came to town, and he is credited with organizing the first local farmers’ fair in 1811.
In 1841, the nation’s first state fair took place in Syracuse, New York. It featured a plowing contest, animal exhibits, and products from the farm and home. The Great New York State Fair is the oldest one in the country and also one of the largest, with more than a million visitors each year.
Where to stay
Many of the U.S. state fairs have RV parking right on the fairgrounds. The advantage to parking at the fair is your proximity to all that the fair has to offer. No worries about finding a parking spot in the huge fair parking lots, and with your rig close by, you can take your time at each venue. Return to your RV whenever you need a break.
The downside of parking on the state fairgrounds is the nearby noise and congestion. Be sure to check the fair’s rules for length of stay and look at a site map to determine the best spot for your RV. Make reservations as much in advance as possible.
We’ve always found great campgrounds near the state fairs we’ve visited. You’ll want to make reservations well ahead of time, to make sure you’ll get a spot!
Ten largest state fairs
You can find a state fair in any state in the U.S. Connecticut and Rhode Island do not have their own state fairs, but they do participate in “The Big E,” formally known as the Eastern States Exposition or New England’s Great State Fair. The biggest isn’t necessarily the best, though. We like the Missouri State Fair because it generally welcomes about 330,000 visitors, and we enjoy this smaller venue.
The ten largest state fairs are ranked here:
- The State Fair of Texas – 2.25 million visitors
- Minnesota State Fair – 2 million visitors
- The Big E – 1.5 million visitors (includes the states of Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire.)
- The Great New York State Fair – 1.2 million visitors
- Tulsa State Fair – 1.15 million visitors (But wait! Tulsa isn’t a state! Oklahoma has two State Fairs: Tulsa’s and the smaller Oklahoma State Fair.)
- Arizona State Fair – 1.14 million visitors
- Iowa State Fair – 1.13 million visitors
- Wisconsin State Fair – 1.03 million visitors
- North Carolina State Fair – 1.01 million visitors
- Washington State Fair – 1 million visitors
Finding a state fair
I’ve found for a list of all state fair locations and dates. Check it out here. You don’t want to miss seeing this year’s butter sculpture, do you?
What’s your favorite state fair and what’s your favorite thing to do at it? What’s your favorite fair food? Answer those questions in the comments below.