Tommy Parsons' favorite Oklahoma State Fair tradition doesn't involve riding something that tosses him back and forth and sideways, or a greasy turkey leg as big as a small child's head. For Parsons, it was all about the people Wednesday afternoon at State Fair Park.
“I love watching the folks,” Parsons said. “It doesn't cost a cent and it's always entertaining.”
Parsons isn't alone. Most families who have attended the fair have a favorite thing to do together, or a first thing they do once inside, whether it be munching on deep-fried food or playing a midway game.
Parsons, 67, got the idea to people-watch after he decided he no longer wanted to keep up with his wife's fair shopping. After about an hour of walking through buildings filled with booths selling anything from T-shirts to Oklahoma-made barbecue sauce, he decided he had enough.
“She moves too fast for me, always has,” Parsons joked. “So I find a good place to sit and watch people for a little bit to give my legs a rest. It's something I've done for a few years now.”
Parsons in particular likes to watch people play midway games and eat fair food.
“You wouldn't believe some of the combinations of food people get,” he said. “I saw somebody with a big ear of corn and a cotton candy once. I like to see people win at the games, too. You get people who just go crazy after winning a stuffed animal or something. It's kind of neat people still get excited over that.”
Speaking of turkey legs, Marla and Kim Stone drove up from their home on the Texas side of Lake Texoma. The mother and daughter have been coming to the fair together since Kim, now 39, was a girl. Their latest tradition is a protest of sorts.
“We eat a turkey leg in honor of the turkeys that got rid of the Space Tower,” Marla Stone, 61, said laughing. “That was our favorite thing to do when Kim was a girl and was always the first thing we did when we got here. But truthfully we'd probably be eating the turkey leg anyway.”
Kim Stone said she remembers riding up the tower as a child.
“I loved being able to see that far,” she said. “It seemed like you could see all the way to Texas and everything in between.”
This is the third consecutive year the Space Tower has been out of commission. The tower was damaged in a 2010 flood.
Mark and Connie Flagler brought their 4-year-old grandson, Brock, out to the fair Wednesday. The couple went on their first date at the fair back in the 1960s and have made it a habit almost every year.
“Our first ride was the tilt-a-whirl,” Connie Flagler said. “We don't get on the rides much anymore, but we love looking at all of the things for sale in the exhibition buildings. Some of those guys can really get you interested in making a purchase, but we hold off most of the time.”
Mark Flagler said he enjoys looking at the pools and spas. He sometimes imagines what one would look like in his backyard.
“I'd love to get one of those hot tubs or maybe put a pool in,” he said. “I've talked to them before about it out here a couple of years ago. But it's one of those things that's pretty easy to talk yourself out of. But maybe with our grand kids getting a little older we might have to think about it. A pool would be a good way of keeping them entertained.”