Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let's go to the fair!


It's state fair time here in the Midwest -- time to see giant tomatoes and big pigs and chow down on elephant ears...
The fair can be a lot of fun, but it can be a budget-buster. I've learned a few tricks over the years to keep the costs down to a dull roar:


Look for discounts: In most cities, the fair teams up with drug stores, groceries or AAA to offer advance-sale admission or ride tickets. Most of the time, "advance-sale" is a loose term; tickets are available through the entire run. Some fairs also have special admission days: show your grocery store or drug store loyalty card and get $$ off. Also, in my city, the local newspaper has been known to run 2-for-1 coupons for select days.


Parking: In my state, you can get free parking on the grounds until the lots are full. If yours does too, be sure to get there early.


Food and drink: As far as I know, nobody offers discounts on deep-fried Twinkies. (and I've found that food prices don't vary much from booth to booth.) But, if your fair allows it, you can always bring in some portable snacks -- fruit, energy bars, crackers and the like.
DH and I make sure to have one square meal during our stay. We've found the pork, beef, lamb and poultry producer's tents offer good-sized meals at a reasonable price. And hey, it isn't the fair without a nice ear of roasted corn ... dripping in butter, of course.
As for drinks, our fair is cool about bringing in a bottle of water, which can be refilled at the water fountains. When I was a kid, my mom used to bring those collapsible cups to use for splitting drinks or filling at the fountains.

And if you gotta have that elephant ear or funnel cake, consider splitting one with your DH or companion. Your digestive system and your wallet will thank you.


Rides: We're not midway fans. But if you are, again, look for the discounts. Check the fair schedule for 2-for-1 days, or all you can ride for 1 price days.


And if you're a fan of free samples (and other assorted plastic dodads), then grab one of those plastic bags and fill'er up. Last year, we wandered by a booth offering antacid samples (appropriate, don't you think?). Business must have been slow -- these guys gave us handfuls of samples. I still have enough to get me through the most fire-filled chili suppers!

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