By Ashley de Coligny
The 50th State Fair is an institution on Oahu. Most local families know what to expect from this beloved annual event from E. K. Fernandez Shows. But if you’re heading there with toddlers or young kids, here’s some family “survival guide” tips, to escape with your sanity and wallet (partially) intact.
-First, some common mom-sense: Go to the bathroom, change diapers, and apply sunblock beforehand. Everyone will be too squirmy and excited once you arrive.
-Get there early. We went at the opening time of 4:00 pm on a Saturday. There was plenty of parking, the lines were short, and the small crowd made it easier to keep track of my kids. Also – take advantage of the “Saturday afternoon special” – on June 16 and 23, from 4 to 6 pm, ride prices are reduced.
-Don’t go hungry or thirsty. I’m all for sampling the delicious carnival snacks. But you’ll save money of you eat “real food” first and aren’t starving when you’re eyeing the Fried Twinkies. Most of the meal plates range about $7 to $12. The best bargain I saw was the $2 Spam musubi near the lion show.
-Be prepared for height requirements. They’re a big deal here. Children under 40” tall get free admission, but everyone has to pay for rides – and there’s height restrictions on every one. Click here for details. http://www.ekfernandez.com/midway/height.asp
-If you have babies or tots, take a break at the Stroller Square. This feature is BRILLIANT. There’s a padded enclosure for babies to crawl around in, and chairs for the parents, all under a shaded tent. For toddlers and other tykes there are wooden cutouts for cute photo opps, and although we missed it this year, last year my kids loved the Backyard Circus and Family Puppet Parade.
-If you have teens or older kids, check out this year’s new rides: The Rave, Techno Power, and the Super Shot. Mine are way too young for them and I have to admit, I was kind of jealous I couldn’t try them!
-If you can, avoid the games. I know they’re beloved to many people, and that I’m a total stick-in-the-mud. But for this cheapskate, they’re just too much of a waste of money. I’m holding out as long as I can, until my kids are old enough to notice otherwise. Which leads to my next tip…
-Spend as much time as possible at the FREE entertainment. We planned to do the lion show at 5:00, the pig races at 5:30, and the European-style circus at 6:00. My kids were pretty thrilled by the new “Walking with Lions” show. The 550-pound lion named Lufuno prowls around the arena while his trainers pet him like a cat and feed him from a bottle. After about 15 minutes, they got fidgety. So we grabbed some snacks and headed to the pig races, which are exactly what you’d expect them to be: two fun-loving country bumpkin characters introduce oinkers with names like Book ‘em Hammo, Magnum P.I.G., and Lindsay Loham. Hilarity ensues. We missed the circus, because my kids were pleading for more rides by then.
-And finally, know what costs you’re in for. Coupons are $1 each, and most of kiddy rides are 3 coupons each. You’ll have to ride some with them if they’re under the height requirement. For me, that was 3 people x 3 coupons which means $9 per 45-second ride. Maybe a minute, tops. I tried not to think, did I really just pay $9 for that? The ones my kids loved best were: the carousel, quad runners, helicopters, Dizzy Dragons, and the ferris wheel. All in all, I spent:
$5 on parking
$6 on admission (one adult, one kid, one free toddler)
$40 on coupons (about $9 each ride w/ 3 people)
$6 on two juice sippers
$3 on cotton candy
$10 on an inflatable pink pony souvenir
If there was ever a time for the “priceless” commercial guy to step in, it would be now. Yeah, I blew $70 in a couple of hours. But honestly, we had a fantastic time. It was one of those magical family outings where everyone was having a blast. I could just feel the happy childhood memories being created for my daughter: her giggles at the pig races, her exhilaration on the merry-go-round, her sheer thrill at the top of the ferris wheel. The way she was skipping around and squealing, “This is so awesome, Mommy!” And her huge smile, on a face covered in sticky pink cotton candy. Eventually, I’ll forget the cash I spent. But I’ll remember that smile forever.
The 50th State Fair continues on weekends through June 24 at Aloha Stadium. For more info, visit http://www.ekfernandez.com/index.asp.