Have an Adventure Date at the KY State Fair Without Busting Your Budget

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Our adventure date begins!

The Kentucky State Fair is a highly anticipated annual event that draws thousands far and wide.  It has been around since 1902 and has only continued to improve over time.  As a native Louisvillian, I have very fond early memories of talking to and being amazed by Freddy; consuming as much cotton candy as my little body could manage; and petting the fat, fluffy bunnies while begging my mother to take one home.  Not to mention narrowly missing falling into cow pies left over by the cattle herded through the wings.  But that’s an embarrassing story for another time.  

Now that I am an adult, I have found that attending the fair is not limited to making new memories.  It is another walk down memory lane, bringing bouts of nostalgia as I enjoy the stunt shows, walk through all the art exhibits, and people watch.    

This year, my fiancé, Jared, and I decided to take a break from the stress of wedding planning and have a fun date day. Being the frugal couple we are, we set a goal for ourselves.  We could go to the fair on the sole condition that we spend no more than $60 while there, not including admission and parking.  We both already knew that the bulk of our budget would be spent on (unhealthy) food consumption.  It’s a well-known fact that no one eats anything remotely wholesome at the fair. 

We arrived at 2:30 pm on Monday afternoon.  The forecast promised a 50% chance of rain, so we came prepared with our rain jackets.  Eventually, the sun came out, and the threat of rain was long forgotten.  

Word of advice… If you anticipate attending the fair, go earlier in the day.  Combined with the threat of rain and the time of day, it was almost surreal how empty the fairgrounds were.  It was great not having to bump shoulders with people as we walked.  Of course, that changed once the sun started shining.  

We made an initial pit stop at the information booth to grab a map and the daily event schedule.  

Quickly looking it over, we chose two shows that piqued our interest.  As avid dog lovers, we both gravitated toward “The Amazing Doberman Show” at 2:30.  We only caught the tail end of it (no pun intended), but it was fun to catch a glimpse of the dog tricks.  Since we weren’t able to watch the whole thing, I wouldn’t find it fair to voice an opinion on it.

After the show, we made our way over to the South Wing.  Systematically, we began at one end and worked our way through the aisles.  

We did stop at 3:30 to watch the FMX Stunt Show. I definitely would recommend taking the time to watch.  The team’s tricks made my jaw drop.  

Another word of advice…do not put yourself through the misery of using those Port-a-Potties, ladies.  Perfectly clean bathrooms are available just inside the wings of the fairgrounds.  

We finished going through all the art exhibits, admiring the wide gamut of creativity and the different forms of media.  It was at that point that we realized our stomachs were growling in anger.  We had yet to spend a single cent of our allotted $60 budget.  

Instead of heading out to the fairway to see what kind of grub we could snarf down, we went into the back corner of the North Wing.  We had heard that there was a self-serve buffet offering a wide range of foods from salads and soups to pasta and meat to ice cream and pie.  While it’s not a well-known, heavily populated area of the fairgrounds, Saddlebred All-You-Can-Eat Buffet is probably the fair’s best kept “secret.”  The dinner menu rates were $20 per person.  That put us $40 into our budget.  If you want the lunch rate of $16 per person, get there before 3.  I must say, Jared and I felt we got our money’s worth.  The food was satisfying and filling.  Not at all your typical, sugary, fried, dripping-in-saturated-fat fair food.  

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