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Here Are The Best Sounds of the Kentucky State Fair*

The midway on M

The 111th Kentucky State Fair kicked off on Thursday, and we took a look at how it stays fresh while still paying homage to the traditions that keep fans coming back year after year.

It's the latest in a long line of WFPL's coverage of the annual festival.

Just last year, Rick Howlett bravely profiled the infamously rude dunking booth clown, played by 23-year-old Mike Bobbie of Ohio. Every shift, Bobbie hurls insults designed to provoke midway-goers into spending their money trying to dunk him. Rick put a microphone to the booth and came back with what's probably some of the most annoying tape we've ever broadcast. It still echoes through the newsroom any time we talk about the fair. Or water.

The year before that, we attempted what seemed impossible: eating healthy food at the fair. We wanted to contrast the availability of healthy versus unhealthy food, so Joseph Lord nobly volunteered to eat the Doughnut Sloppy Joe, while Devin Katayama had the unenviable task of trying to find some low-calorie fare.

Have a listen:

Incidentally, Kentucky State Fair Board President Rip Rippetoe told us earlier this week there are more healthy options at the fair this year. When I brought that up to building superintendent Ira Hundley, he just said, "I don't have anybody come to me and ask where can they get a salad."

Devin had attended his first fair three years earlier, and he came back with the report below. In it, we learned that some people make a tradition of going on the first day. We also met kids who were hoping their cows would win blue ribbons, and a poultry judge who told us what makes a pigeon a prize winner.

After dark, the fair gets a little wilder. In 2012, Gabe Bullard found out just how wild when he ventured inside one of the beer tents. He came back with this audio postcard of some partiers who were willing to stop dancing long enough to talk to a public radio reporter:

And finally, we return to the food. This year's delicacy is the Philly Cheese Steak Doughnut Burger. Last year, it was the Fried Hot Brown on a Stick. Alix Mattingly captured some footage of the dish being sampled — by a beauty queen, of all people. We consider this conclusive evidence that you never know what you'll see (or eat) at the Kentucky State Fair.

Watch the video:

*As determined by your local public radio station.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.