Billed as “New Jersey’s most ginormous event,” the State Fair returned to Meadowlands Fairgrounds returned Thursday for 19 days of outdoor summer fun.
Now in its 24th year, the fair offers daily rides, free nightly entertainment, and a host of unique attractions – from pig races to magic shows – at the Meadowlands Sports Complex on Route 3 in East Rutherford through July 5.
Pig races. Can’t have a fair without ’em.
Making their Meadowlands debut
“Every year we bring in free entertainment and this year we have several new shows,” said Michele Tartaglione, managing director of the fair.
Sea Lion Splash, an educational marine show, will likely be a hit with children. The show features several rescued sea lions that had been beached and injured due to “human carelessness,” according to Splash organizers Marco and Kathi Peters. According to their web site, the two created Sea Lion Splash to “educate the public on the plight of these incredible marine mammals and how we, as humans, need to coexist together in harmony.”
Older kids and fans of the 1960s TV series “Batman” won’t want to miss an aerial stunt show featuring the original Batcopter from the show. (This stunt show will be performed by the same folks who do the Batman Carnival of Chaos show at Six Flags Great Adventure.)
Visitors can also check out the Hell on Wheels Trilogy, a BMX show that’s a little different from the BMX show presented at last year’s fair.
Tartaglion described the show as “magnificent. They do the NASCAR tour and all kinds of major events.”
Adults might enjoy illusionists Ridgeway & Johnson. Kevin Ridgeway is a magician in the tradition of David Copperfield, Tartaglione said. His partner, Kristen Johnson, “is one of the few female escape artists in the world. And she is the only one who does the [Chinese Water Torture Cell trick made famous by Harry Houdini]. The only difference is she does it in full view.”
Houdini performed this illusion behind a curtain.
Early birds who get to the fair in its opening weekend can enjoy shows by the Puppetone Rockers. During their musical performances, puppets reminiscent of ones from Britain’s “Spitting Image” offer such life lessons as “Do Right” and “You Can’t Have Fun if You’re in Trouble.”
A show called Piccadilly Circus is another new addition to the fair this year.
Tartaglione said fair organizers specifically sought out acts that are “family friendly. That’s always a first for us. But we also look for entertainment that we would find fun or that intrigues us or makes us laugh.”
Back by popular demand
Those who attend the fair each year will notice that a few attractions from 2008 and 2009 were not included this year, to make room for the new acts.
“But,” Tartaglione said, “there are two things we can’t seem to do without. One is the pig races. Every year the races are crowded. We’ve had to purchase more bleacher seats because every year people are spilling out onto the midway.”
Master hypnotist Steve Bayner is the other wildly popular attraction back for another year at the fair.
“We’ve had people call and tell us they won’t come to the fair if he wasn’t going to be there,” Tartaglione noted.
The fair also features a large petting zoo from Connecticut, which is another returning attraction, and more than 150 carnival rides.
As in the past, the state fair will feature a number of theme nights that offer discounts on admission prices.
There will be a Father’s Day Special Sunday, June 20. That day fathers can go on rides for free from 2 to 6 p.m.
One of the most popular nights in previous years – carload night – will be offered again. On carload night (Thursday, June 24) everyone who fits into a car – up to eight people – can get into the fair for a flat fee of $69. Parking is also free that night.
There are also special bargain nights for teens.
The State Fair will take place daily through July 5. Weekday admission for children12 and younger is $5, $6 for holidays and weekends. Adult admission is $7 weekdays and $9 weekends and holidays. Parking is free Monday through Wed., regularly $3. For more information, visit www.njfair.com or call (201) 372-4080 and (973) 450-1073. E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.