Arkansas State Fair kicks off today; 82nd Annual Event Features Food, Rides, Exhibits and Enhanced Security

Pickle Pizza, Kool-Aid Pickles, Fried Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meatballs on a Stick, Fried Salt Water Taffy and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Corn will be among the offerings at the 82nd Annual Fair. State of Arkansas when it begins today.

The fair, featuring food from 53 vendors, ends October 23. Media were invited to a Thursday luncheon at the Big Show Diner to try out some of the offerings.

Dan Sawyer, senior account and new business manager at GWL Advertising, recalled how small the media lunch was, when food vendors and media could all fit in a small restaurant.

“Now we literally have the whole food court open to everyone because it’s getting huge,” Sawyer said.

Lunch also included classic Fair Trade food – corn dogs, pizza, cheese dip and fries, loaded fries and cotton candy.

Vendors included Terry Wilburn, owner of Millie’s Fish-N-Shrimp. The food truck offers Creole fish, shrimp, crab cakes, blood sausage dumplings, Creole pork chops and the occasional turkey neck boil.

This is Wilburn’s second year at the fair. He said he liked it, although it could be chaotic.

“But, that’s how you want it, you want it to stay busy,” he said.

Her favorite part is seeing unfamiliar faces and the food.

“I have probably the tastiest fish in Arkansas, and I hope they enjoy it like everyone else so far,” he said.

In addition to the rides, the fair will also feature free attractions such as a petting zoo, a prehistoric museum and several shows, said Will Hornburg, sales and promotions manager at the fairgrounds.

“The main reason we’re here is the Arkansas Livestock Show Association,” Hornburg said.

“It’s for kids with all the farm animals — 4-H and FFA [members] — these kids boast of rabbits, chickens, goats, lambs, right down to cows, and they’ve worked hard all year. That’s where they get their biggest payoff.”

Competitors can win between $10,000 and $15,000, Hornburg said.

The fair will also feature contests, creative arts and entertainment from artists such as Color Me Badd, Megan Moroney, Tyler Kinch and more.

SECURITY MEASURES

Security protocols will be put in place. No bag larger than 14 inches by 14 inches by 6 inches will be permitted. Additionally, no weapons, no re-entries, and metal detectors and security wands will be used at all entrances.

The police will also use new technologies to reduce crime.

Fairground security added nearly 50 new security cameras to the grounds, bringing the total to more than 100, said Capt. Frank Field, the fairgrounds security manager.

For the first time, the cameras will transmit footage to the Little Rock Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center, Sgt. Troy Dillard, who commands the center, said.

Crime center personnel can view live footage or review clips after the fact, Dillard said, increasing the speed at which they can relay information to fairground officers.

In addition to seeing warning signs of violent incidents before they happen, Dillard said, staff reviewing footage can help with more routine events such as locating people lost in crowds.

In another first, Little Rock police will use a drone with cameras to monitor from the air, and crime center personnel will have live access to that footage, Dillard said.

This is the first time the department’s real-time crime center has been used for an event of such magnitude, Sgt. said Eric Barnes.

The center will continue to evolve over time, Dillard said, but the core software is in place, and he thinks the fair will be a good opportunity to use new technology and identify areas that need improvement.

Also this year, Fair Security will be rolling out new body scanners which should speed up security checks and get visitors in faster.

Scanners from a company called Evolv are expected to get 3,600 people per hour through security checks, Fields said, compared to 500 per hour with the previous system.

Security will be able to use the scanners to identify weapons, including their location on a person’s body, Fields said.

All kinds of weapons, including pocket knives and pepper spray, are prohibited, Fields said.

Tickets are $6 for seniors and children ages 6-12. Adult tickets are $12 each. All-day treads can be purchased for $35

Fernando Hernandez of Mckinney Food Services hands out corn dogs during the Arkansas State Fair food preview event Thursday at the Little Rock Fairgrounds. More photos at arkansasonline.com/1014food/. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
Photo Arkansas State Fair Map
Photo State Fair Schedule

Gallery: Arkansas State Fair Food Preview

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