DALLAS – The annual State Fair of Texas opens today at Fair Park, with the Opening Day Reliant Starlight Parade kicking off in downtown Dallas at noon. The parade begins at Main and Houston streets and ends at Main and Good Latimer.

Sponsored by Reliant, the exclusive electricity provider and “Official Energy Sponsor” of the State Fair of Texas, the Reliant Starlight Parade is a magical display of colorful floats, music and costumed characters. The parade can also be seen in Fair Park nightly at 7:15 for the duration of the fair, Sept. 30-Oct. 23. Newly crowned 2011 Miss Texas, Kendall Morris of Ennis, will participate in the opening day parade festivities, fair officials said.

Enjoy the Midway

The theme for the 2011 State Fair of Texas is “125 Years: A Timeless Tradition.” Perhaps one of the biggest, screamin’-est fair traditions, of course, is the Midway. About 73 rides and attractions are featured on the 2011 Midway, including six new ones.

With its kaleidoscope of colorful lights, the new Air Maxx comes to Texas from Europe. It holds 16 passengers as it spins and twirls through the air, eventually taking thrill seekers to the top of the ride at a height of 49 feet.

Rave is a Midway addition based on an old favorite – it has a round cylinder that spins around and around until riders stick to the wall via centrifugal force. The floor then drops away, leaving all aboard merely “hanging around.”

Four of the new rides will be found on the Kidway, the family-friendly zone within the Midway. Happy Swing accommodates up to 12 youngsters and parents alike, laughing all the way as they sail through the air in two rows of bench-style seats. The minimum passenger height is 36 inches.

The Daytona round ride is an innovative and interactive attraction that allows riders to operate a Daytona-styled car. The driver can maneuver the steering wheel so that the arm onto which the car is attached can be extended or shortened. This feature allows cars to not only make laps, but to also be steered from left to right or the other way around.

The Jungle Coaster is a new kids’ roller coaster that will elicit gleeful shrieks from all on a hunt for adventure, as will Wacky Shack, a new children’s fun house.

In addition, the State Fair of Texas has broken ground on an $11 million project intended to take the fair to new heights. Designed to hold 100 passengers, the new 500-foot observation tower ride is slated for completion in August 2012. During the 2011 exposition, the future ride’s walled construction site will be wrapped with architectural renderings of the ride’s finished look. Fairgoers will be able to look through the wall’s peepholes to monitor construction progress.

The Midway is open seven days a week through the fair’s duration, but operating hours vary. Fairgoers can see the posted hours at each Midway entrance.

Food at the fair

Historically speaking, many food concessionaires at the State Fair of Texas have made it a family business for generations, serving long-time tasty favorites and inventing new culinary treats as the years click by. At the 2011 State Fair of Texas, fairgoers can dive into nine new epicurean sensations served up from several favorite locations.

Deep Fried Biscuits and Gravy are the comfort food du jour, created by Mark Zable and located at the Belgian Waffle stand on Grand Avenue.

Texas Steak Cone, a fajita relative, is the brainchild of Binh Tran and can be found at Benz Foods on Cotton Bowl Plaza.

Heavenly Deep Fried Brownie speaks for itself. You can hear what it has to say at Trini Garza’s Ranchero Fajitas stands in the Tower Building and on Grand Avenue.

Fried Naked Tamales – seriously, we run a family-friendly fair – are not so naughty as they are deep fried and delicious. Take a peep at Ruth’s Tamales stand on Cotton Bowl Plaza and MLK Boulevard, across from the Coliseum. Also on tap there is Deep Fried Southern Hospitality, a gentile combination of pork, collard greens and hot water cornbread, the likes of which are only available this side of the Mason-Dixon.

Double Fried Chicken Breast Taco with its cream gravy or jalapeno ranch dressing, se habla “Viva el taco!” Sold in the Grand Place Building and on MLK Boulevard, beside the Texas Star by Steve Velasquez.

Praline Sweet Potato Poppers gingerly coax the taste buds to beg for more. Find them on Cotton Bowl Plaza at Kyle Wall’s Pizza and Nacho stand.

Fernie’s Deep Fried Whole Lotta Chocolatta is a triple threat fried chocolate sandwich, with a side of chocolate-drizzled russet potato chips and a glass of chocolate wine (for the grown ups in the crowd age 21 and older). Christy Erpillo’s sensation smack down is in The Dock inside the Embarcadero on Admiral Nimitz Circle.

Fried Pecan Caramel Candy is a dental dream and a Fairgoer’s fantasy. Find this confection at Barrera’s located on Fun Way in front of the Lost Children’s Shelter.

Main Stage

entertainment  

The State Fair of Texas is proud to host once again several A-List music headliners on its Chevrolet Main Stage. During the 2011 run, fans will gather to hear top names in rock and roll, country and other various genres.

Glenn Smith of Glenn Smith Presents, is producer of the Main Stage series. While acts perform daily during the fair, the following stars and performance dates are a few of the standouts: Kraig Parker’s Ultimate Tribute to Elvis, Friday, Sept. 30 at 8:30 p.m.; Miguel, Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m.; KC & the Sunshine Band, Sunday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m.; JB & the Moonshine Band, Friday, Oct. 7 at 8:30 p.m.; Jack Ingram, Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8:30 p.m.; Katie Armiger, Sunday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m.; Colt Ford, Sunday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m; Thompson Square, Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m.; Mitchel Musso, Monday, Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m.; Finger Eleven, Friday, Oct. 14 at 8:30 p.m.; Hanson, Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8:30 p.m.; Chrystal Bowersox, Sunday, Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m.; Randy Travis, Friday, Oct. 21 at 8:30 p.m.; The Bangles, Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8:30 p.m., and La Mafia, Sunday, Oct. 23 at 3 p.m.

The outdoor, open-air, festival-type Main Stage is located on a huge blacktop where guests stand; seating is available on nearby grassy areas, low walls and steps. An ADA-compliant enclosure is provided for those needing special assistance. Concert admission is free for State Fair visitors.

For the complete 24-day schedule of musical acts performing at this year’s State Fair of Texas, visit www.bigtex.com and click on “Entertainment.”

Ticket information

General Admission: $16

Kids under 48 inches tall: $12

Seniors 60 and older: $12

Children 2 and younger: Free

Seniors 60 and older: Free every Thursday (Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 20)

Dallas Fall Garden Getaway: $19

Parking on official fair lots: $15 per space

The State Fair of Texas is proud to announce that Kroger is the retail ticket outlet for general admission tickets ($14.50), season pass ($29.95 includes one buddy pass – good for one visit any Monday-Friday only – and one Cinemark movie pass valid Sunday-Thursday only expires Oct. 31) and the DART combo ticket ($17). Tickets are on sale now.

Visit the fair’s online store at www.bigtex.com for even more savings.