For some, it’s kitsch, Americana, and corn dogs. For others it’s the pinnacle of summer. And for Garrison Keillor, host of widely popular radio show Prairie Home Companion, it was an assignment unlike any other. In this month’s issue of National Geographic, Keillor shares the lessons he learned while visiting six state fairs last summer, and emumerates his Top Ten State Fair Joys. Photographer Joel Sartore traveled with Keillor to each of the fairs, and some of his brilliant images are featured below. Check out the full gallery and submit your own photos to National Geographic’s My Shot: State Fairs, and take our quiz to test your knowledge of state fair history.
“I ain’t got no body,” croons Andy Mullins, midway barker at the State Fair of Texas. “I greet people, crack ‘half’ jokes, sing ‘All of Me,’ ” he says. But the mirror illusion that makes him look like half a man is the big draw. “I love the way kids look at me and ask if I’m real.”
When you’re slammed through the night sky at 75 miles an hour and 4 g’s, “your stomach stays on the ground,” says Minnesota fairgoer Tim Petersen. Reluctant at first, he and Deborah Smith finally succumbed to the Slingshot’s 200-foot launch and free fall to Earth. Go again?
Eating into history, 8,400 Iowa fairgoers bite in synchrony at the first-ever Corn Dog Chomp, in 2008. Recipes vary (bacon fat makes some extra tasty), but corn dogs have been fair fare since at least the 1940s. A new treat debuted in Texas in 2006: fried Coca-Cola (batter balls flavored with cola syrup).
Photos: Joel Sartore
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