By Barbara Coots
As the Texas summer comes to an end, it’s time to celebrate everything the Lone Star State is about. The folks in North Texas have been doing it for 78 years at Denton’s North Texas State Fair and Rodeo. And with an attendance 100,000 strong and growing, it’s definitely reached legendary status. It all begins on Friday evening, August 18, with the PRCA Rodeo in the Miller Lite Arena, followed by a headline performer on the Budweiser Main Stage. Then, on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the celebration continues with the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo Parade, Denton’s largest annual parade. Then nine days of ropin’, ridin’, dancin’, and fun commence in honor of the area’s western heritage—all at a very affordable admission price. And with 92,000 square feet of either air-conditioned or covered areas and the coldest drinks in town, you’ll find you can easily take the heat. The concerts alone are a hot entertainment value, and this year they have more shows than ever. “You may very well catch someone who is about to make it big,” says Executive Director Glenn Carlton. “In 2000, we hosted Pat Green, who went on to earn three Grammy nominations and make Billboard’s top five. But even before then, the North Texas State Fair was known as Texas’ prime showcase for country music.” In addition to three nightly concerts, the Acoustic Stage in the Commercial Exhibit Building hosts a range of unplugged contemporary country and back-to-your-roots performers. True to the North Texas State Fair’s mission, the event’s four rodeos preserve western heritage and values while exhibiting the growing diversity of its dynamic culture. First, the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Rodeo runs nightly August 18–20. On Monday, August 21, the popular All Mule Rodeo takes place. The Sonic 21 and Under Rodeo showcases the skills and talent of the younger participants August 22–23. Then the Miller Lite True to Texas Bull Blowout rounds out the event August 24–26; it’s a professional bullfighter tour that rates the nation’s top cowboy athletes on their ability to protect downed cowboys. On the final Saturday, not only will the bullriders and bullfighters be competing, but the area’s top 45 bulls will compete for the grand title in the Bucking Bull Derby. Former Dallas Cowboy and longtime participant Walt Garrison brings a group of friends to attend the fair every year. With characteristic down-to-earth candor, he says, “I used to rodeo and I love the PRCA. In the youth event, it’s great to see the kids out there—some may be world champions one day.” For a must-see for all ages, Garrison recommends the mule rodeo: “It’s the highlight of the fair! Mules are known for a lot of things, but rodeo is not one of them. It’s more about fun than skill, and you never know what’s going to happen.” In a competition for the title of Northstar Bank Rodeo Queen, women display expert horsemanship in preparation for state and national contests. Other extras include the North Texas State Fair Beauty Pageant, a livestock show that draws more than 700 entries, more than 100 commercial exhibitors featuring unique, one-of-a-kind products with a western flair, and Muttin Bustin’ races for young children. Also for the younger set, the DATCU (Denton Area Teachers Credit Union) Kid Zone offers many activities at no extra charge, like the Little Blue Choo-Choo, face painting, a petting zoo, and superinflatables—not to mention interactive participation in a western show (for more information, see www.dressupshows.com). For an additional charge, carnival and midway lovers can choose from a wide range of activities and more than 20 rides for all ages (all sponsored by Classic Lincoln Mazda), or enjoy a pony ride or rock climbing. At the Syracuse Sausage Fun Zone, you can try your hand at a game of horseshoes, but for the cat’s meow, visit the Exotic Endangered Cats of the World Show, new this year (for information, see www.exoticendangeredcatsoftheworld.com).