Your Ultimate Guide to the 50th State Fair 2017
The biggest fair of the year is May 26 through June 25. Here is your guide to the new rides, free shows and a reason to wear neon to Aloha Stadium.
Photos: David Croxford
It may be the Century Wheel. It may be the funnel cake. The state’s biggest fair brings out the kid in all of us. Here is our guide to everything you need to know about this year’s E.K. Fernandez extravaganza.
What It Is
The 50th State Fair sets up shop at Aloha Stadium every summer from Memorial Day weekend until late June. What started as a trade show in 1937 quickly grew into an annual event with livestock shows, elaborate booths by local businesses, shows and, of course, the midway. In the ’40s and ’50s, it was even known as the “49th State Fair,” until Alaska beat out the Territory of Hawai‘i in the race for statehood. Today, people across the island crowd in for thrill rides, free shows, carnival games and everything from pizza and shave ice to deep-fried Twinkies.
Where and When
The fair usually kicks off Memorial Day weekend in the Aloha Stadium parking lot, and runs on weekends for about a month. Hours vary; this year it’s even closed for a private function Sunday afternoon, June 11. But the gates typically open at 6 p.m. on Fridays, 4 p.m. on Saturdays and noon on Sundays, and close at midnight.
Where to Park
Fairgoers cluster in the spaces right around the fairgrounds, which are set up on the Diamond Head side of the Stadium parking lot. Parking is $7 a car. Those in the know sneak in with the Swap Meet crowd on Sunday afternoons when parking is $1 a person and people 12 years and younger are free.
When to Go
Afternoons are less crowded and more family-driven, which means longer lines around younger rides that disappear at naptime. But if you want to see the midway light up, go late. The busiest time is always Saturday nights between 7 and 9:30 p.m.
How Much It Costs
It costs $3 to $5 admission to get in the gate. Kids shorter than 40 inches are free. But the real math comes when you try to calculate your credits. Rides, games and food take the E.K. Fernandez Fun Pass, a rechargeable card you swipe at the attractions. It costs $20 to purchase one and you can only reload in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Ride prices range from 33 credits ($3.30) for the kiddie ones to 100 credits ($10) for the special thrill rides. Figuring out the combinations of 33-, 46- or 50-credit rides and attractions to use up all your credits will take time, patience and, likely, a calculator. Fortunately, the Fun Pass doesn’t expire, so you can wait until the next neighborhood E.K. Fernandez fair to try it all again.
A few things to note:
E.K. Fernandez brought in 30 more Fun Pass kiosks to alleviate the long lines people dealt with last year. But these blue machines only take cash. So, if you live on credit cards, you will need to visit the red machines in the game area.
There are three discount days when most rides and admission to the fair are discounted: Sunday, May 28, Monday, May 29, and Sunday, June 4.
On Memorial Day, all active-duty and retired military and their dependents with ID get free admission. It is also a discount ride day.
New in 2017
Three rides and two shows are new for 2017. The one you’ll spot from miles away is the 150-foot tower of “Speed.” The ride looks like a giant fan, sending people through the air in free-spinning gondolas. “Speed” is only in town for the fair and is not for the faint of heart, budget-minded or short of stature. It has the highest height requirement of all rides, 54 inches, and costs 100 credits, or $10, to take a spin.
“Seven Seas” whisks people around for free falls on a smaller scale. It debuts on June 8 and replaces FireBall in the E.K. Fernandez arsenal.
The weekend of June 8 to 18, you can climb up into a monster truck for a ride for 50 credits. D’Sturbed’s giant four-wheelers will also crush cars during free demonstrations.
In the entertainment tents you can catch the new Pork Chop Revue. Owner Les Kimes is a second-generation 50th State Fair entertainer. His dad brought another act to the fair in the 1960s featuring “Oink” the singing pig. Kimes’ new show stars pigs and hogs balancing, doing acrobatics, dancing and even singing in this comedy variety show.
Altervision 3-D Blacklight Experience custom built a huge tent for the fair. For 30 credits, you don a pair of 3-D glasses and walk into what is being called a stunning, exciting and immersive environment with images that jump off the walls, ceiling and floor.
What to Wear
It’s a parking lot in the summer. You’ll be hot and dusty. Dress accordingly. One warning: Worn-down slippers don’t do well on the graveled grounds.
What to Eat
Every kind of carnival food is in full force. But if you’re not interested in the usual pizza, hot dogs or cotton candy, check for other vendors in the back of the grounds. In the past, we’ve found Thai, lechon and other specialty foods set up past the tents around the main stage.
Restroom trailers are typically set up right by the entrance and all the way in the back. The ones in the front are usually less crowded and in better shape. Don’t expect to find a good supply of paper towels in either.