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It's a party

Jamie Rogers

Alaska, you don't look a day over 21, much less 50 years old. But the Alaska State Fair is saluting your 50 years of statehood this year with a celebration that lasts 12 days. And what better way to fete the state than a summer tradition that keeps throngs of fairgoers coming back year after year with its youthful enthusiasm?

The fair kicks off and lets it hair down Thursday with the Governor's Day Alaska Statehood Celebration, when cake, dancers, a blanket toss and more will welcome visitors on opening day.

But there's so much more that will attract this year's fans. How do we love thee, Alaska? Let's take a look at the fair's plans:

Let me discount the ways

With many gas tanks hovering near empty and the economy running on fumes, it's nice to know there are ways to save on fair admission -- so you can better spend the cash on corn dogs.

Special dates to save at the fair gates include: Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids' Day (Aug. 22), youth 12 and under get in free; 2 Buck Tuesday (Aug. 26), with $2 admission from noon to 2 p.m.; and Union Day (Sept. 1), when you show your union ID card for $2 off admission for you and a guest.

Carpool to the fairgrounds and you'll do your wallet, and the planet, another favor while saving on parking fees.

Free entertainment

Some events at the fairgrounds don't cost an extra dime. Get the most fun for no mo' money at the King BMX/Skate Stunt Show (3, 5 and 8 p.m. weekdays and 1, 3, 5 and 8 p.m. weekends and Labor Day, Grandstand Tent), the Petting Zoo (open until 8 p.m. daily, Farm Exhibits) and Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show (1, 3 and 6 p.m. daily, SBS Woodlot).

Multitude of musical acts

When it comes to big-name fair bands, Alaskans love 'em or leave 'em. But there's plenty to adore at the Borealis Theatre, including country singer Tracy Lawrence (7:30 p.m. Aug. 23, $35-$45), ventriloquist Terry Fator (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27, $35-$60), hip-hop star Sean Kingston (5:30 and 8 p.m. Aug. 29, $29.50-$39.50) and rock bands the Gin Blossoms and The Rembrandts (7:30 p.m. Aug. 31, $29.50-$39.50).

That's not even counting the additional classic rockers and tribute bands plus the nightly live music at the fair's Sluicebox. All Borealis Theatre concert tickets include fair admission when purchased prior to the day of the event.

Crazy contests

Suit up in your dingiest overalls and warm up your vocal cords for goofy fair games and contests including Carhartt Competitions (6 p.m. Aug. 26, Events Tent), the Fiddle Contest (5 p.m. Aug. 30, Colony Stage) and the Husband Holler (6:30 p.m., Aug. 28, Bluebonnet Stage). New tests of skill this year include Alaska's Got Talent (1 p.m. Aug. 24, Events Tent, and 9 p.m. Aug. 27, Borealis Plaza) and a Text Messaging Contest (5 p.m. Aug. 29, Events Tent). Most contests are free to enter with fair admission. And don't miss the Giant Cabbage Weigh Off (6 p.m. Aug. 29, Farm Exhibits).

Get busy a-gettin' dizzy

Squeal, squirm and stand in line for a of multitude of midway rides this year including the hydraulic Hurricane, the airborne Arabian Nights and the sweet Apple Spinner. Rides operate daily during fair hours. Individual tickets are $1, with kiddieland rides averaging two tickets and major rides averaging three tickets.

Save your change (but don't let it fly out of your pockets) during Coca-Cola Carnival Zip Strip days, Aug. 25 and 27. That's when you can buy a "Little Zip" for 15 kiddieland rides for $25 and a "Big Zip" for 15 bigger rides for $35.

Elite eats and treats

Admit it. Some of you are going to the fair simply for its unique bounty of food. Where else can you dine on elephant ears, roasted corn cobs, turkey drumsticks, candy apples and battered halibut all in one sitting? Not that you should.

This year's crop of more than 60 vendors won't disappoint, with returning favorites such as Denali Cream Puffs, Rollin Donuts, Friar Tucks, Rae's Gourmet Tamales and, last but not least, Hoop'n Hula Milk 'n Cookies. Grab a hoop and shake off a few crumbs and calories at this Miner's Loop spot popular with kids.

Words of advice: Tums are your friends, and ride the rides before eating. No one enjoys the Tilt-A-Hurl.

Powerful pyrotechnics

Twirling midway rides light up the Alaska nights, but not like the spectacular sparkles of fireworks displays. Oooh and ah on three evenings: Thursday and Aug. 23 and 29. Shows start at 10:15 p.m.

As if the booms aren't blast enough, the Aug. 23 show, sponsored by Target, will include 3-D glasses and a musical simulcast by Q99.7 Valley Radio throughout the grounds. Oooh, pretty!

Play Editor Jamie Rogers can be reached at jrogers@adn.com or call 257-4556.

Alaska State Fair

When: Thursday through Sept. 1. Gates open at noon on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends and Labor Day. Fair closes at 10 nightly.

Where: Alaska State Fairgrounds, Palmer

How much:

• Daily admission is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and ages 6-12, free for 5-and-under.

• Three-day passes are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and ages 6-12.

• Season passes are $60 for adults, $40 for seniors and ages 6-12.

• Parking fees include: $5 for cars, $18 for RVs, $25 daily premiere on-grounds parking. Extra $10 for towed trailers or cars.

Phone: 1-800-850-FAIR (3247)

Web: www.alaskastatefair. org

For Alaska State Fair coverage and complete schedules, visit adn.com/statefair. Getting there

Driving: The Alaska State Fairgrounds are at 2075 Glenn Highway in Palmer, 45 miles northeast of Anchorage.

Riding: The Alaska State Fair Train offers roundtrip travel from Anchorage to Palmer, Aug. 23-24 and Aug. 29-31.

The early train, available Saturdays and Sundays, leaves Anchorage at 9 a.m. and leaves Palmer to return at 4:30 p.m. The late train, running Aug. 23, 29 and 30, departs Anchorage at 1:30 p.m. and departs Palmer to return at 10:30 p.m.

Train trips last about 11/2 hours. Tickets: $54 for adults, $47 seniors, $27 children and $22 for 5 and under. All tickets include fair admission. For more information, call 265-2494, 1-800-544-0552 or visit alaskarailroad.com/fairtrain.


By Jamie Rogers
jrogers@adn.com