It’s fall in Dallas and everyone knows what that means (or in this case meant): State Fair of Texas. Our team at MPD Ventures Company scooted over on the last Friday it was open for our annual office fair day.
We asked one of our fabulous interns, Hailee Binet, to do the honors and blog about our day as well as some tips for those eager to explore the fair next year.
Over to you, Hailee…
Everything is Bigger in Texas
Of the 1 million plus people who just live in Dallas, you can bet the majority of them have attended the fair at some point and time. The Texas version has had the largest attendance for any fair in North America for the last 5 years—2016 was the most successful one in the 130-year history with 2,402,199 attendees and generating more than $56 million in revenue for coupon sales going to food, beverage and ride vendors – that doesn’t count ticket revenue or special purchases in the shops (we did our fair share here). And you can bet MPD Ventures attended with almost our entire office once again…as we’ve grown over the years, it’s been harder to manage getting schedules aligned for every person to make it but we try.
MPD has been attending the fair every year since 2006—2016 marked the 11th consecutive year. The annual tradition is most definitely cherished and enjoyed by the entire team. As the newest intern in the office this was my first year to attend. I enjoyed the surprisingly gorgeous Texas weather in the shadow of Big Tex. I had only been to the fair once before—and as the office was quick to point out—I hadn’t done it the right way.
Turns out that the right way is eating a LOT of fried food and possibly being kissed by a camel (let’s just say the petting zoo animals were very friendly with our intern Kris).
Always-On Marketing Brains
Watching this marketing team on the move was fascinating: they constantly noticed and commented on all things marketing, publicity, and grammar, even in their “off time.” Literally, strolling through the fair with the group I heard the following comments – along with phones out to capture for social sharing:
“Someone didn’t use spell check or a second set of eyes on that banner.” Oops, the word chocolate was misspelled.
“What a clever marketing slogan and campaign idea!” A tractor test demo between John Deere and a competitor asked you to compare apples to oranges (i.e. the two brand colors).
State Fair Tips & Tricks
This team knows their way around Fair Park and enlightened us on the tips and tricks to save time and money. Here are some of my takeaways:
Take some photos. You’ll want to commemorate the fried food, games, and laughter. It’s great fodder for social media as well as strolls down memory lane at later company retreats or celebrations.
Print out coupons or watch for discount days on admission tickets. We brought KISS FM Friday coupons that offered $5 off general admissions tickets, a $30 savings. We also benefited as one of our team had a season pass. On an earlier fair visit, one of our team found that you could earn a free ticket to the fair by test-driving a Nissan Titan truck, just outside the fairgrounds, as part of their promotion. It was on the side near the DART Rail.
And if you’re lucky like we were, just standing in line could get you a free ticket or two from people who just “had too many.” That’s Southern hospitality right there.
Learn where to find the cheap drinks. Talana knows her way around the beverage stands. One drink stand in the Midway sells beer at half the price of other stands – a $3 beer versus a $6 beer (they even have a website dedicated to this fact: 6ticketbeer.com). You can find water for .50 cents and $1 near the petting zoo. And, if you are planning a long day or repeat visits, the refillable Big Tex mug or branded Solo cup offers refill discounts at multiple self-service stands for sodas, teas or waters…and with ice.
There is a best stand for Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, really. No, they don’t all taste the same as I learned. All the Fletcher’s stands are good but there is one stand that hand dips the dogs in the batter before your eyes and hands to you directly from the fryer. It seems they are all hand dipped but one stand is more real-time than the others, at least this year. The stand is located in the Midway right by the Crazy Mouse ride. (So, combo tip…pick up a half-price beer and a few stalls down grab a truly, freshly-made corny dog.) Maureen, our resident healthy eater, deemed the new “veggie dog” good. Of course, the Fletcher’s near Big Tex is the ultimate destination for most fairgoers.
Jack’s Fries and Krispy Kreme Burgers are a must. Jack’s Fries, which are Debra’s favorite, are worth the effort to find the booth, located in front of the Cotton Bowl main entrance. They’re the perfect snack to enjoy while exploring. And while I didn’t taste the Krispy Kreme burger—more because I didn’t claim a portion fast enough—it’s at least very picture worthy and deemed delicious by our team. I mean, it’s a burger in between two glazed donuts: how could you not be curious? Our other fried hit was the tried-and-true classic funnel cake…again, near the Midway and made as you ordered.
Not all parking is equal, some is even free. If you own a pick-up truck, drive it to the fair because there is a Nissan lot where trucks park for free – any make. We’re hoping this is an annual offering. This year the lot was located at the corner of Second Avenue & Ash, and it’s a short walk to the main fair entrance. If not, it’s worth the splurge to park in an official Fair Park lot for the $15 cash fee. It’s gated and less walking as well as no risk in crossing busy public streets. Traffic can be a beast at times (as it was during our visit), so if you are anywhere close to the DART Rail, consider taking it.
There’s something in it for everyone. Whether you’re the adrenaline-chaser of the group who’s dying to do the zero gravity rides, or you just want to eat weirdly good food and stare at the gigantic hog or butter sculpture (yes, both do exist), there’s a place for you at the fair. The great part about this relaxed “day at the office,” is that everyone got to do, see, and eat what they wanted.
Get Outside, Laugh & Enjoy the Day
The best tip we can give you is to let people have fun. Go as a group and do everything everyone wants. Even if it’s not something you thought you’d enjoy, it’s a new experience, and you may end up loving it. If not, you still get to bond with your coworkers, enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, and half day out of the normal office setting.
While I definitely do not run an office, nor am I even close to doing so, it’s very cool that MPD has done this excursion every year for more than a decade now. I imagine it increases morale and relationships with coworkers and recommend other offices do the same or find another venue or activity to participate in during office hours.
The women in this office have incredibly fun stories and experiences from every past year (seems they used to be up for crazier rides years before), and I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of it this year. Maybe I’ll have to stick around for next year’s trip. I hear that the two MPD munchkins (Paige & Maureen’s little ones) may well join in the fun.