Opinion: Drive-thru state fair is nothing exceptional


Photo via bigtex.com

The Big Tex Fair Food Drive-Thru will be open from Sept. 25 to Oct. 18 at Fair Park.

The Texas State Fair has been around for 134 years, and has since become immensely popular, attracting a crowd of 2.5 million people in 2019. However – for the first time since WWII – the Texas State Fair has been canceled. Taking its place, the Big Tex Fair Food Drive-Thru offers visitors the opportunity to pick up their favorite fair foods, enjoy a scenic drive through Fair Park in the comfort of their car and take a picture with Big Tex. 

The drive-thru fair opened Sept. 25, and will continue every weekend until Oct. 18. Although people are unable to enjoy the usual fair experience, they can still enjoy the award-winning food. Fair food packages (entry tickets included), can be found on their website.

Unfortunately, the idea of the drive-thru state fair is better than the reality. 

A Big Tex mascot walks through parking lot lines, greeting people who are waiting to get into the fair. Customers had the option to get out of their car and take photos with him.
(Photo by Grace Edgeworth)

The experience begins by entering Fair Park through Gate 11. Instead of being met with long lines of people waiting to enter, and even longer lines to purchase tickets – you’re met with a one-to-three hour wait in the parking lot queues. When I imagined the drive-thru fair, my initial thoughts were about the convenience and speed of it. Yet the drive-thru fair is nowhere near convient, and sitting in a car for multiple hours makes it infinitely more uncomfortable.

My family arrived at 10 a.m., just as they opened, and our wait time in the queues was around one hour. When you purchase tickets, you’ll be able to choose three different time slots: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. or 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. You’ll need to keep in mind that if you select later time slots, the wait will most likely be two-to-three hours. 

Cars drive through the lines at the State Fair, approaching the Fried Oreo stand. Fried Oreos were one of the numerous foods offered at the State Fair.
(Photo by Grace Edgeworth)

Vendors begin distributing foods and drinks as soon as you enter the fairgrounds. The entire process was surprisingly fast-paced and efficient; the vendors already knew what foods to give us based off of papers staff put in our windshield. The experience inside the fair is pretty quick, only lasting around 30 minutes. 

The food plan you should purchase entirely depends on how many people you have. The two food plans can be found on their website, with the opportunity for food add-ons. My family bought the $100 plan and it was enough for all five of us. 

The fair food was delicious as always. I don’t honestly think anyone can say they dislike fair food. The Fletcher’s Corny Dog was easily my favorite food item, with the turkey leg coming in close second. Jack’s French Fries, Cotton Candy and Pioneer Kettle Corn are honorable mentions. The only questionable food item was Fried Oreos- why is that a thing?  

Replacing the fair’s popular auto show, a series of cars line the route in the beginning. The fair also offers a virtual auto show for car enthusiasts. Getting inside the cars and seeing them close-up is definitely an irreplaceable experience, so this year’s version is nothing spectacular.

Along the majority of the route, country music is playing in speakers. In part of the route, they even have live singers. Although I don’t like country music, the music definitely adds to the ‘Texas/Country’ themed decorations throughout the park.

Toward the end, you have the opportunity to get out of your car and have your photo taken with Big Tex by a professional photographer. 

At the end of your route, they give you your ‘Midway Prize’ which is just two-to-three stuffed animals. They also offer younger kids the option to play “Pick a Door,” which allows them to pick a box, each containing a different prize.

Attending the State Fair is a thrilling experience for me, and I always have a great time. So, when I heard the drive-thru fair was taking place, I was excited to go. After attending, I would say the entire experience is underwhelming. The website described an “experience” so I was imagining more than just repetitively driving and stopping to pick up food. I understand there was no way for the actual fair to take place due to COVID-19, and I honestly think the drive-thru fair was a wonderful idea. However the long wait negates any positive aspects in my opinion. Unless you’re a state fair enthusiast or only attend for the food, waiting hours just for fair food isn’t worth it to me.