Can 11 people go to the fair for under a hundred bucks?

My goal was simple: to spend no more than $100 at the fair for all 11 of us. Except I wanted the whole enchilada: admission, rides, and food. Could it be done?

First expense: Admission
We have 6 adults, 4 kids, and 1 free preschooler. (Letting preschoolers in free is strategic, I realized while carrying my 40 lb 4-year-old on my hip.  They know the parents will end up buying overpriced snacks to keep the lil buggers happy.)

Regular adult admissions to the fair are $7, but looking online I discovered that if we waited to go til the very last day of the fair, our local newspaper was sponsoring half price adult admissions, provided you bring a coupon clipped out of the newspaper. On the way to the fair, we bought a paper.


We discovered on the drive there that you needed a coupon for EACH admission. Drat. Thankfully a very nice lady came up to us near the ticket booth and offered us 4 coupons. Bless the woman! We paid for our tickets.


Fair (20)

Once inside, we beelined it for the indoor exhibits. We discovered years ago that kids LOVE entering stuff at the fair. Makes the whole trip so much more participatory! Here are pictures of some of our clan showing off their ribbons. (OK, truth— they were thrilled with the ribbons, but mom forced gently encouraged them to smile purty for the pictures.
Fair (1)
Another photographer in the family
My cute hubby and his mantis
Yet another photographer

Ribbons at the exhibit hall:  $0

Not shown– my 4th place ribbon for a picture of my nephew, and my husband’s third place ribbon for a truly gigantic green pepper.  (OK, I confess:  not only the kids like entering stuff at the fair!)  Once we made it through the exhibit halls (to the relief of our 4 year old– how many chicken quilts can a kid be expected to look at, anyway??) it was time to go for the rides.

Here’s where the other reason for going to the fair on the last day came into play.  Along with half price admissions, there were also free carousel and ferris wheel rides all day long. Sure, they aren’t THE most thrilling rides at the fair for teenagers, but they’re a heckuva lot better than no rides at the fair, which we have done a time or two.  And this year- get this– ONE ride coupon is a buck.  And rides take 4 or 5 coupons.  That’s $4-$5 PER RIDE.  During the course of the day we (collectively) got 22 rides on the ferris wheel and at least 15 rides on the carousel.  Major bucks a different day.  Lovely.

Ferris wheel and carousel: $0

We’d eaten lunch on the way to the fair,  so we  were able to get a couple hours without major hunger pangs.   But once we’d ridden a few rides, and got hot and hungry, it was time to survey Food Row.  From previous years, we had a pretty decent idea of what was filling and fun.  After walking the length of the whole row of food venders,we made our choices.

8 Coke slushies and 3 blueberry slushies:  $22

Fair (10)

On a hot day, I tell you, they’re heaven in a cup!

Then, food.   We were sorely tempted by the onion blossoms AND the churros.   But Second Daughter sensibly reminded me that we can make both of those items at home, and they don’t have the filling power of the other contender:  the Pound O Fries with all-you-can-eat ketchup.  We ordered 4 pounds.  The girl at the counter looked alarmed.  Until I told her that we had 11 people.  At which point she admitted I might be right.

Fair (11)

Four pounds of french fries:  $14

Next on the agenda: animals.  We admired chickens and petted rabbits and watched eggs hatch and (surprisingly) saw a cow who had given birth to an adorable wobbly legged calf so recently that unmentionable stuff was still hanging out of unmentionable areas.  Ahem.  Good thing we were done eating. (And no, I didn’t take pictures of that– sorry.)

Animals:  $0

Fair (12)

After the animals had been thoroughly admired and commented upon and fed bits of grain that other people had paid a buck for and spilled upon the floor, we decided to head for just one more ride on the freebie rides of the day.  John and some of the younger kids went on the carousel while older kids and I opted for nearby shade.  At that point a man walked up to us.  “We’re leaving,” he said.  “Could you use these tickets?”

And he handed us 13 ride coupons.  How very kind.  Hmmm….what to do?  Since a couple of the 11 year old kids had been lobbying hard to ride at least one of the scary rides, I offered to buy enough ride coupons so that all of the older kids could ride one ‘scary’ ride.  As it turned out, however, only 3 kids wanted to ride something scary.  Which required the purchase of exactly two tickets. The rest of us got the fun of standing below and laughing as we watched the faces of the kids fighting the urge to vomit.

Fair (17)

In the above picture, the boy smiling gleefully wearing the green shirt?  He’s mine.

Fair (16)

In this picture, both the grinning girl and the screaming girl are mine.

2 ride coupons:  $2

On the way out, a couple of the kids decided to buy some metal canteen-type water bottles, which I am not counting in our fair expenses, since they spent their own money.  But they were definitely pleased by the buy.  Since it had been a couple hours since our slushies and and fries, we talked about buying more fair food.  We opted instead to go to Wendy’s across the road, where the Frosties are $1.19.

Frosties:  $13

At that point, thankfully, the fair spending was done.  The day, however, was a grand success.


Total Spent:  $93!

Yeah!  We did it!


  1. I love it. Well done you are to be congratulated on your success at the fair.
    Careful planning and organising can result in lots of family fun.
    Makes me want to go to the fair!

  2. Funny how the memories and excitement of an experience rarely have anything to do with how much money you spend. Sounds like you and your family had a world class day!

    Casual Kitchen

  3. Good for you!

  4. Hooray!! A great day was had for a bargain price. 🙂

  5. That is AWSOME!!

  6. Wow! What a great day. You did it. I have to start researching our fair. We have not gone in years and it comes in a few weeks. I would really like to take the kids, but money is tight.

  7. Very glad you were able to have great family time!

  8. Outstanding. That’s a lot of fun for a pretty good sized group for under $100.


  9. I remember the years I was in 4-H, exhibitors at our fair got one coupon for a free fair admission. It may be worth investigating to see if your fair does that. 🙂 Then all of you can enter things in the fair and get in free! 😀

  10. I am impressed! Woot Woot for a successful day – both under budget and fun!

  11. Great Job! I about died this year when we took our 3 kids to the fair. It is so expensive, but like you guys, we set a limit and we only took $40 in cash. We left the ATM cards at home–because you KNOW they are everywhere there. Funny, I saw a headline on MSNBC a couple of weeks ago that said the people who run the fair are not being hurt by the economy! I guess we know why!

  12. Wow, this was amazing. I have to admit we usually just don’t go because it can be so expensive. I guess going to the fair, like so many other things, can be done and done well if someone takes the time to put some thought and consideration into it. Good for you!
    Some time I would love to hear your thoughts on college expenses. I am about to send my youngest next fall and I am knee deep in daughter #3’s financial aid paperwork.

  13. very cool, mary. at our fair, if you are a 4Her, you get to ride free during the weekday. My three big kids will all get to ride free next year. At $15 per child (wristband), I’m gonna save a lot. And we brought water from home too, that helped cut $$.

  14. Your kids are gorgeous!! What fun a trip to the fair! 🙂

  15. wow, that’s great!!! it sounds like you had BIG fun and made your budget! 🙂 wooohooo!!


  16. I’m so gonna have to try this! The bonus for us is Hubs teaches and his students usually give him free passes to get in and we go see their live stock and then off the rides and food!

  17. Wow! I’m seriously impressed! Sounds like a great day!!

  18. Amazed. Impressed. We LOVE the fair. Ours was at the beginning of August, and even today our 2 year old was heading out to the county fair with her shopping cart while I was making dinner. It left quite an impression. Although, I am not sure it left as deep an impression as your cow birth encounter : ).

  19. great job! I’m saving this for when the fair comes here. I should totally be able to do this-we have less people!

  20. Funny that Meredith should link to this tonight, as my husband just asked me if we want to make plans to go to the State Fair of Texas this year. I told him yes, and to make sure he takes off on a Wednesday, as traditionally Wednesdays are the days you can get in for $1 with 3 cans of food per person for the North Texas Food Bank.

    But even with our super-cheap admission, we’ve never done as as well as you at the fair! Very impressive and inspiring!

  21. Our county fair has a free home schoolers day which we attended last year and will attend again this September. I can’t believe how expensive your rides were. Wow! Ours are still around a buck a piece. Still pricey but not quite as bad as yours.

    You did great!

  22. you never cease to amaze me! my four year old will be visiting the fair again this year. care to join us? we could use your guidance!

  23. My dh took our two kids to the state fair this year (with my broken ankle I opted to stay home). After they returned home I told him in all the history of the state fair our family was probably the only one that had not paid a PENNY while being there all day!

    Admission – kids under 12 were free so that took care of both our kids…my dh was supposed to pay about $8 for himself but as he was walking from the car to the entrance a woman gave him a ticket for free!

    Rides – we skip the rides as every other yr we take a trip to a place where there are rides and consider that our time for rides…whereas the state fair was the time for looking at all the other “stuff” – which this yr included a circus which turned out to be the kids’ favorite activity there.

    Food – when they were hungry they left the park, got their hands stamped and went down the road to McDonalds…getting the hand stamp allowed them back into the fair the same day. They did spend $ for their meals at McDonalds but with all 3 getting Happy Meals (yes even my husband) – the price was considerably cheaper than fair food.

    Now I know if I had been along there would have been $ spent at the fair as I’m the one always wanting to snack!

  24. Well done! Very impressive!

  25. Well done!!

    I miss the big fair we used to go to before we moved.

  26. Well done!!

    I miss the big fair we used to go to before we moved.

  27. How fun! We got to go to the fair with similar God-provisions last week. For our family of 5 plus 3 more friends, we spent a grand total of $26. We didn’t do any food, just a few shared drinks, but otherwise, our day sounds much like yours. We didn’t see any wobbly-legged calves, but did see 5 black bears! 🙂

  28. Wow– job well done!


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