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Cotton Bowl Stadium not quite the same without the State Fair

by Jenni Carlson Published: December 23, 2012


photo - The lines were long at the Fletcher's Corny Dogs stand near Big Tex on opening day of the State Fair of Texas, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 in Dallas. The State Fair of Texas, which marks its 125th anniversary this year, runs through Oct. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Guy Reynolds)
The lines were long at the Fletcher's Corny Dogs stand near Big Tex on opening day of the State Fair of Texas, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 in Dallas. The State Fair of Texas, which marks its 125th anniversary this year, runs through Oct. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Guy Reynolds)

Steve Bullard walked through Fair Park before the Cotton Bowl back on New Year's Day 2002 feeling out of sorts.

All of the familiar landmarks were there. The exhibition buildings. The midway booths. Even Big Tex.

But there were no rides or games, no blinking lights or yelling barkers. There wasn't a corny dog to be found.

“It felt a little like Clark Griswold going to Walley World when it was closed,” said Bullard, a lifelong Oklahoma fan.

A game at Cotton Bowl Stadium without the Texas State Fair is a bit surreal. Like the morning after an atomic bomb. Like the day after the rapture.

Everything is there except the people.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans have experienced it in recent Cotton Bowls, with the Sooners playing Arkansas after the 2001 season and the Cowboys playing Ole Miss after the 2003 season.

Now, Cowboy fans are about to head back to the land of the lost with the Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

They're sure to encounter the weirdness.

Chase Bartlett sure did back on New Year's Day 2004. The devout Cowboy fan was a teenager, and it was his first time attending a bowl game.

He was fired up about seeing his Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl.

“But looking at the fairgrounds, it was quiet and dead,” said Bartlett, now a student at OSU. “That really stuck out to me.

“It was like that until you got closer to the stadium.”

Once he was around the stadium, the feeling was much more like a normal game day. There was a pep rally. There was a sea of orange.

Jimmy Bunn Jr. was part of that wave. The OSU alum has worn something orange every day since his graduation in 1987. He even has a black, orange and white argyle suit that he sometimes wears to games.

He remembers the empty fairgrounds before that Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss — but it's not a bad memory.

“Going to the stadium was easy,” he said. “No parking problems and the Fair Park was empty.”

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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