Rides, pigs, food and fun: State Fair all set to begin

Rides, foods and colorful sights will be featured at the 96th annual Delaware State Fair in Harrington. Last year’s fair attracted more than 281,000 visitors over its 10-day run. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Rides, foods and colorful sights will be featured at the 96th annual Delaware State Fair in Harrington. Last year’s fair attracted more than 281,000 visitors over its 10-day run. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

HARRINGTON — Although the Delaware State Fair doesn’t open until Thursday, the fairgrounds in Harrington were already busy Friday afternoon.

The peaks of circus tents had risen at the entrance; Twiggs the giraffe was back to his home at the Giraffe Menagerie Petting Zoo.

Nearby, the Hollywood Racing Pigs track was already set up. Workers circled the grounds in tractors. At the carnival, crews were setting up colorful rides with names like “The Viper.”

Vendors are starting to set up at the fairgrounds this weekend, said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing for the fair. Each year, the fair offers about 400 retail and food vendors and more than 55 rides.

Through Aug. 1, organizers expect the Delaware State Fair to bring between 275,000 and 300,000 people to the fairgrounds in Harrington.

For 96 years now, the state fair has drawn visitors across the state for pig kissing contests, bands in the plaza, acrobats, livestock and exhibits.

“It’s a tradition of coming to the fair,” Mr. Aguilar said.

“This year’s theme is ‘Find Your Fun.’ I’ve enjoyed working with it because what you find to be fun is different from what I find to be fun.”

From deep-fried twinkies to carnival rides and concerts, or simply enjoying time with friends and family at the end of July, the fair offers something for everyone, he said.

Organizers also have new attractions planned and favorites they’re bringing back.

Visitors can mingle among live butterflies; experience the fair from new heights on a helicopter; meet a roaming stilt walker or a crazy magic show on wheels.

The FFA Agricultural Education Center will feature demonstrations from FFA members across the state.

The John Curtis Sr. FFA Children’s Barnyard petting zoo will be home to donkeys, pygmy goats, dairy calves, piglets and more,  making it a win for all ages.

Mr. Aguilar said he’s looking forward to working closely with the folks at FFA.

“It certainly supports our mission statement for education for livestock and agricultural in Delaware,” he said.

Also new this year, “The Roost: Beer and Wine Garden,” open daily from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., will shocase Delaware-made wines and domestic and craft brews.

“We’re trying something new outside the box a little bit, understanding that craft beer has grown to be pretty popular,” Mr. Aguilar said.

Organizers are bringing back the Delaware State Fair mobile app this year, too, but “bigger and better,” said Mr. Aguilar.

“We’ve got new notifications, fun games and contests all throughout the mobile app,” he said, including a photo hunt where folks can take pictures around the fair to win tickets.

The Delaware State Fair opens Thursday at 8 p.m. and runs through Aug. 1. After Thursday, gates open every day at noon.

Tickets cost $8 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 12. Admission is free for ages 5 and under.

Visitors can buy advance discount tickets at participating Walgreens locations and save $5 off Unlimited Ride Wristbands and save $2 adult admission.

There are also special free days planned for senior citizens, youth and Armed Forces.

Specially marked Pepsi cans can earn visitors $2 off adult admission Friday on Pepsi Day.

On July 27, visitors will receive free gate admisssion if they bring five Food Lion brand canned goods for the local Food Bank of Delaware.

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