10 of the best songs about going to the state fair

Rides at the fair — Photo courtesy of iStock / standret

State fairs across the nation are in full swing while several are still preparing to open their gates.  And if you’re anything like us, you can hardly wait to queue up for rides, taste the craziest foods, watch insane eating competitions and see all the cute animals.

If you need something to tide you over, or music to get you pumped while en route, we’ve selected 10 songs that evoke going to the state fair.

“State Fair” – Los Straitjackets

You might already recognize Los Straitjackets as they’ve been around in one form or another since 1988.  Even if you don’t know them, their surf rock sound will certainly feel familiar.  We selected their aptly-named “State Fair” track to kick off this playlist.  We think the nostalgia will get you in the mood for the midway.

“I Lost My Heart at the Fairground” – Glenda Collins

Even more on the nose for this theme is “I Lost My Heart at the Fairground,” complete with all of the ambient crowd noise and fair organ sounds you could stand. The song spins a tale about a young girl who falls in love with a boy she met at the swings.  You’ll have to listen to find out what happens next.

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“Tunnel of Love” – Bruce Springsteen

This is the second song on our playlist that makes use of crowd noise to really emphasize the carnival/state fair angle.  And, of course, The Boss carried over the theme into the music video. Don’t even get us started on carnival-themed music videos from the 1990s and 2000s, although maybe this is what started the trend?

Anyway…this title track from the 1987 album is as advertised: a song about going for a ride in the Tunnel of Love.

“On a Carousel” – The Hollies

A wholesome take on young love, “On a Carousel” is the story of a boy anxious to meet a girl he spots on the carousel.  The song admittedly also serves as a metaphor for being in a love affair, but it’s so catchy and full of pep, there’s no need to ponder the deeper meaning. Just enjoy the ride.

“The Ferris Wheel” – Alvino Rey

When we listen to Alvino Rey’s steel guitar swooping up and down, we can’t help but imagine a Ferris wheel circling around, high atop the fairgrounds. Rey’s pioneering use of electric amplification still impresses us so much today, and we can hardly imagine how audiences must’ve been dazzled when they first heard this catchy number back in 1942.

“Popcorn” – Hot Butter

An early example of synth-pop from 1972, “Popcorn” is exactly what it sounds like.  Composed by Gershon Kingsley and played by Stan Free on the Moog, the electronic sounds produced are reminiscent of popping corn.  It’s a synth masterpiece that makes a great addition to any state fair playlist – and it makes us hungry for some fair popcorn.

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“Maximum Consumption” – The Kinks

The Kinks couldn’t begin to fathom some of the astonishing foods being served up at state fairs these days.  We have our eyes on the Brown Sugar Pork Belly on a Stick at the Iowa Pork Tent, Indiana’s Deep-Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich, and the Deep-Fried Double Stuffed S’mores Custard Sundae from the Wisconsin State Fair. 

With all that temptation, it’s hard not to give in to maximum consumption.

“Vegetables” – The Beach Boys

It just wouldn’t be a state fair without marveling at local farmers’ blue ribbon-winning vegetables.  The Beach Boys would seem to agree.  “I’m gonna be ’round my vegetables / I’m gonna chow down on my vegetables / I love you most of all / My favorite vegetable.” 

If you listen closely to this track, you might hear special guest star Paul McCartney munching on a stalk of celery!

Cows Around – Corb Lund

Cattle are a state fair staple, from Illinois’ legendary butter cow to the Moo Booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Everything is better with some cows around, as Corb Lund notes in this infectiously fun next stop on our playlist.  

Hailing from Alberta, we suppose that this Canadian singer/songwriter would call them “provincial fairs” rather than “state fairs”, but let’s not pick nits here.

State Fair – Rasputina

Plenty of people love the state fair.  Some are even fortunate to discover love at the state fair.  Our playlist draws to a close with a little bit of both.  A blue ribbon pig, curly fries, sno-cones, a dunking booth, and Rasputina’s trademark distorted cellos: that sounds like a heck of a weekend at the state fair to us!