7 tips to get the most out of the Kentucky State Fair

ALERT: You have through Aug. 30 to visit the Kentucky State Fair.

If you still need some convincing, here are 30 reasons why you should visit the fair, also known as the most exciting event of the year. And once you make the correct decision to go to the fair, here are some tips to make the most of your visit:

1. Wear closed-toe shoes.
Goats and other animals track that hay all over the place.
Goats and other animals track that hay all over the place.

Owners walk their animals in, out and around the expo center throughout the fair, which tracks straw, dirt and, ummm, organic material everywhere. You don’t want to step in something gross with just a $5 flip flop protecting you. 

2. Bring cash.
A footlong corndog was $7, a worthwhile purchase for my yearly treat.
A footlong corndog was $7, a worthwhile purchase for my yearly treat.

I’ve seen more vendors accept debit and credit cards over the years, but the majority of business at the fair is cash only.

3. Wear a crossbody bag.
Some of the rabbits were for sale. I was *this close* to bringing one home.
Some of the rabbits were for sale. I was *this close* to bringing one home.

This just makes the day a lot easier.

4. Bring a water bottle.
I don't have any pictures of water bottles, but I do have a picture of a cake in the shape of a woman's behind.
I don’t have any pictures of water bottles, but I do have a picture of a cake in the shape of a woman’s behind.

There are water fountains throughout the the expo center to fill up your water bottle. This is a lot better than paying $2 every time you’re thirsty. And that saves more money for ice cream.

5. Get to the fair early.
The dog show was packed, and it was only 1:30 p.m.
The dog show was packed, and it was only 1:30 p.m.

Traffic has been horrendous to get into the fairgrounds. If you’re going on the weekend, aim to leave the house by 10:30 a.m. to avoid afternoon traffic. And try to enter through one of the gates off Crittenden Drive rather than the big entrance off Phillips Lane. The traffic volunteers still might send you far away to park, but at least you’ll get in relatively quickly.

6. Map your route.
I always include the decorative cakes and other exhibit hall entries in my fair schedule.
I always include the decorative cakes and other exhibit hall entries in my fair schedule.

You have to have a plan of attack to make sure you see all of your favorite sights. Here’s the routine I’ve perfected over five years of fairing:

  • Animals
  • Lunch
  • Miller’s Border Collies
  • Exhibits
  • Flea market
  • Dessert

Notice I don’t have the midway on my list. That’s not an integral part of my fair experience, so I don’t try to squeeze in rides to an already full schedule. Decide what’s important to you and your family and friends, and go with that. You don’t have to make time to see the miniature Christmas tree decorating entries if that’s not your jam.

7. Make time to see the Miller border collies. This is not optional.
The highlight of my visit was getting one-on-one time with Flint, one of the Miller border collies.
The highlight of my visit was getting one-on-one time with Flint, one of the Miller border collies.

I love my dog, Roscoe. I really do. But the Miller border collies put my pooch to shame. These dogs put on demonstrations at the fair to show off their herding capabilities. Their owner uses whistles and voice commands to get the dogs to herd a group of unhappy ducks around a show ring and into a cage. It is AMAZING to watch. And you never know if the ducks will cooperate; this year, they exhibited some civil disobedience and wouldn’t get into that cage. Get to the show ring a half hour early to get a good seat to watch the herding.

Join me today, Aug. 21, at the Kentucky State Fair bourbon cooking competition

Funnel cake because it's time for the Kentucky State Fair.
Funnel cake because it’s time for the Kentucky State Fair.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, guys. The Kentucky State Fair is in full swing.

This year’s fair runs Aug. 20 through 30. Find out all the info about admission and hours here. I’ve documented my love affair with the fair for the past five years, so I won’t waste time running my list of reasons why you need to set aside some time to make it out to the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center. But I will mention one event that’s worth making a trip to the fairgrounds this evening.

I will be one of a great group of judges at this year’s 30th annual Evan Williams Cooking Contest, at 6 p.m. today, Aug. 21, on the Gourmet Garden culinary stage in South Wing Lobby A of the expo center. The competition pits amateur and professional chefs against one another to find out who can prepare the best entree, soup, stew, barbecue or casserole that features Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The Courier-Journal reports that there will be more than 80 dishes entered in the competition. That’s a lot of eatin’, friends. But someone has to judge these dishes, and I’m the lady for it. And you know I love judging a cooking competition — it’s like Chopped come to life.

Evan Williams Cooking Competition at the Kentucky State Fair

When: 6 p.m. today, Aug. 21

Where: South Wing Lobby A, Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center

For more information: Kentucky State Fair’s website

Get your stomachs ready for the Kentucky State Fair, Aug. 14-24, 2014

A corn dog from the 2013 state fair. I'm coming for you.
A corn dog from the 2013 state fair. I’m coming for you.

My love for the Kentucky State Fair is deep, and it is real. It is so real that my friends Samantha, Beth and I started planning our trip to the fairgrounds last month.

There is so much to see, do, and eat. The dogs herding ducks. Goats, pigs and cows giving mean side eye. A deep-fried Hot Brown? Why, I don’t mind if I do. All this activity requires proper planning.

The duck-herding dogs always steal the show.
The duck-herding dogs always steal the show.

The gates opened today, Aug. 14 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The fair runs through Aug. 24. Visit the fair’s website for information on parking, admission and everything you need to know about making your fair visit fun.

I’m not going for another week. In the meantime, I will start hoarding Mylanta for all the deep-fried deliciousness.

The Kentucky State Fair

Aug. 14-24, 2014

Kentucky Exposition Center

937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, Kentucky

More info: kystatefair.org

Plants, pies and fries: A wrap-up of the 2011 Kentucky State Fair

The Kentucky State Fair is over, and I haz a sad.

This was the second year that my friend Samantha and I visited the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center (which is actually close to my new digs) to explore the sights and sounds of Kentucky’s finest in agriculture, culinary arts and a bunch of stuff that I can’t categorize.

I also had a delicious treat as voted on by blog readers. I’ll get to that at the end.

First, here is a slice of awesomeness that I got to see at this year’s fair. And yes, I’m easily amused by pretty fruits and veggies.

First-place gourd collection. Who knew there were so many shapes and colors?


A kid made this jacket. A KID. I would buy it in a heartbeat.


A kid also decorated this cake. That’s it, I’m putting all my future children in 4H and FFA and THEY WILL LIKE IT.


Baby chicks, or your chicken dinner in its infant form.


A farmer comes to the fair every year to lead herding demonstrations with his dogs. I think these are the hardest working animals at the fair.


For kicks, I entered into the culinary competition at the fair. I didn’t win anything, but it was neat seeing my food on display (and not yet molded like some other food in the cases).

Here is my entry in the oatmeal cookie category:


Here are the oatmeal cookies that won:


Here is my entry in the muffin category:


And here are the muffins that won:


My dad is convinced that there is a culinary conspiracy within the fair that explains why I didn’t win. God bless him.

Next year, I might enter something into the knitting category. But who could top all these knitted booties — and flip flops?


I also had some good eatin’ at the fair. I had to have a corndog, because that’s just the American way. I wasn’t too happy with the $4 price tag, but it was right out of the fryer and delicious. I washed that down with the french fries, which would have been better if the vendor hadn’t been so stingy with the ketchup packets. I needed at least five, dude. But I forgive you.

I turned to blog readers to decide what kind of fried food confection I should try this year. Fortunately, you all voted for something that wasn’t as scary as fried Kool-Aid or the doughnut burger: fried Derby pie.

I thought the pie would be served as a whole slice that was dipped and battered and served on a stick. Instead, I got four doughnut-hole-like balls covered in a heavy dusting of powdered sugar.


I did, however, skip the bright-red raspberry syrup on top. A girl’s gotta watch her calories where she can, amirite?

These bite-sized balls of fried pie were delicious. Imagine a warm doughnut filled with nuts and gooey chocolate. I don’t think life can get much better than portable pie.

Thank you, readers, for voting for a food I wouldn’t regret eating an hour later. Just remember to take care of me next year.


Should I suffer through another fried creation at the Kentucky State Fair?

The Kentucky State Fair is here again, and I will make it out to there before the festivities end Aug. 28. I’m excited to see all the exhibits and contest entries, and I even entered a couple of baked items in the culinary competition. And of course, I’m looking forward to the fair food.

Remember last year?

Two doughnuts, one burger, lots of regret.

I challenged myself to eat the Krispy Kreme burger at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair. Though my stomach wasn’t so happy, it was kind of fun to eat something that outrageous and brag about it later. I don’t, however, advocate eating this more than once a year.

I will leave it up to the readers to decide what I should try at this year’s fair. Should I go crazy and get something similar to the Krispy Kreme burger? Or should I keep it simple with basic fried foods?

Until next year: the 2010 Kentucky State Fair in pictures

This year’s Kentucky State Fair saw a decline in the number of attendees, but I couldn’t tell.

I was having too much of a good time.

I spent a weekday afternoon with one of my roommates, Samantha, perusing the exhibits and gorging myself on grease and glaze.

It was the first time I went to the fair for the exhibits and food instead of the rickety rides on the midway. It was amazing to see the diversity and talent of my state on display. I gained a new appreciation of where my food comes from, especially after I saw a piglet, a hog and then sampled some fried ham. The circle of life doesn’t get more complete than that.

Here’s a look at the sights of this year’s fair. I apologize in advance if I have misidentified an animal. I grew up in the ‘burbs, and the only time I went to a farm was on a first-grade field trip.

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Bits and pieces: Kentucky State Fair Edition, 8.23.10

This week’s news from the web is dedicated to the 106th Kentucky State Fair, which began Thursday and continues through Sunday.

No words necessary.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about the Krispy Kreme burger, a new addition to the usual fair food available. The dish consists of a beef patty stuck between two Krispy Kreme donuts. And there’s also bacon, just in case you didn’t get enough fat in your meal. The concept is not new – Luther burgers have been around for at least a couple of years. Courier-Journal reporter Chris Quay ate it and survived. Should I?
  • Tom Eblen, a columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leadershadowed the volunteers who have the task of judging more than 4,000 dishes entered into the fair’s culinary competition. The judges take their job seriously – check out the debate about whether an entrant’s pie crust is bought or homemade.
  • Food is a big draw at fairs across the country. The fair in Montgomery County near Washington, D.C., is expanding the palates of attendees by introducing ethnic foods (in addition to classic fried foods, of course). According to the Washington Post, “as America’s population has diversified – and Montgomery County’s is among the most diverse anywhere – fair organizers in a few states have opened up their food stands to better reflect the people coming through the doors. They’re also appealing to a younger population with an increasingly sophisticated palate.” Some of the offerings at the Montgomery County fair include Ecuadorian fruit salad, Salvadorian tortillas and Greek gyros.
  • Need to know what’s going on at the fair? Check out the event’s official blog, The Shake Up, for a daily rundown. The Courier-Journal also has a great page devoted to the fair.

*Photo courtesy of *Jeffrey* via Flickr