A menagerie of Ozark Empire Fair animal attractions

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It’s nearly time to grab your wrist bands, enter a sugar-coma from cotton candy and eat fried food right before riding ridiculously awesome rides. Summer’s Biggest Party on a Stick is here starting Thursday, July 30.

The Ozark Empire Fair has so much to see and do, you pretty much need the entire 10 days to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the excitement. Here are eight attractions you won’t dare miss while visiting for the Ozark Empire Fair.

Exotic animals join the celebrations
Bipedal friends celebrate! The fair is bringing a wide array of amazing animals to the Ozark Empire Fair. Check out famous Clydesdales, camels, sharks and more all in one place.

The Budweiser Clydesdales deliver a load of majesty
This year at the Ozark Empire Fair the Budweiser Clydesdales will make their grand

The Ozarks Empire Fair Midway offers a beautiful view at sunset.

The Ozarks Empire Fair Midway offers a beautiful view at sunset.

appearance in Southwest Missouri. Just don’t cry; remember that moving Super Bowl commercial that brought everyone to tears? Now you and your family or you and your main squeeze can meet these majestic, iconic horses live and up close. Jul. 30-Aug. 2.

Haai Live Shark encounter of the close kind
Making their first appearance at the Ozark Empire Fair is the Haai Live Shark Encounter, literally the only traveling shark encounter around. You’ll get to watch as a diver enters the tank and interacts with real, live sharks, in ways you’ve never seen before. Using an underwater mask that enables a diver commentary to those of us safely outside the water, the diver will give a play-by-play of what’s happening in the aquarium. This is a unique opportunity to understand what it feels like to dive and interact with the sharks vicariously. It’s one of the coolest ways to get to meet face-to-face with a shark in Southwest Missouri.

Exotic animal farm, camel rides, petting zoo and pig races
You can also get up close to some fascinating exotic animals in Hendrick’s Exotic Animal Farm and Petting Zoo. Or pick your favorite and cheer on racing pigs. All the animals strolling around the fair bring fun for all ages and the perfect opportunity to take a selfie with your favorite exotic animal.

Livestock on display every day
If wouldn’t be a fair in the Ozarks if area exhibitors  weren’t on hand each day to shows us their best livestock.  You can learn about cattle, horses, goats, poultry, sheep, rabbits, and more.  Make sure to visit the livestock areas during your visit to the fair this year!

Fried or on a stick, Ozark Empire Fair has it all for foodies
One habit you’ll want to forget is your diet. Your jaw will drop while your mouth waters over all the different food at the fair. Any and every kind of fair food you could ever want is available. A popular favorite is the giant corn dog, although any food on a stick, bun or plate is usually a win-lose. First, you win with your favorite dawg or other food and a beverage (gotta keep hydrated), then you try to lose it by walking around the fairgrounds. What’s not healthy about that?

Follow Lulu to Pineapple Whip
No trip to the fair, or Springfield for that matter, is complete without the pinnacle of cool, refreshing treats: the Pineapple Whip. It’s the perfect way to stay cool, treat yourself and enjoy a Springfield summer. There’s always the classic Pineapple Whip, but you can also to try Mango-Peach, Strawberry-Kiwi, Grape, Orange, and Banana-Pomegranate (aka NanaGranate) too.

Boot Daddy Bar and Grill
Boot Daddy Bar and Grill is one of the all-time favorite parts of the fair. Let’s be real, the fair is great, but getting to chill in an air-conditioned building and sipping a cold brew sets the mood for the entire night. Boot Daddy has some of the greatest food at the fair and is the only place to grab an adult frosted beverage on site.

Enjoy local market and live music
Tour the Live Local East Hall featuring a cooking stage, Missouri-made products for sale and interactive agriculture display. This AGventure stop brings the farm to the table. Not to mention one of the best fair festivities around, food on a stick.

Enjoy live music at the Ozark Empire Fair
Get ready for the sounds of summer at the fair. Check out all the great musical acts at the KY3 Grandstand, the free stages scattered around the fairgrounds and all the performers that will provide the soundtrack to your evening.

The grandstand has some great entertainment lined up, but nothing beats the nostalgic pull of the Under the Sun Tour. It’s a popular tribute to the feel-good songs of the 90’s and early 2000’s, featuring Eve6, Uncle Kracker, Better than Ezra and Sugar Ray, plus a ton of other great entertainment is listed on the lineup.
Check out the music stage next to Guest Services as well as the free stage by the annex or the karaoke stage at Gate 5 for free music to be heard around the fair.

Yes you can ride the rides at the Ozark Empire Fair
How brave are you? Get your tickets and wristbands early so you can ride everything twice. Some of the best are the Screamer that launches you in the air, White Water’s slide splashing you into cool water or a high level spin on the Ferris wheel at night. There is a ride – more likely several – at the fair just for your level of courage.

Knights of Valour Full Metal Jousting Tournament
The Knights of Valour will entertain fair crowds with a display of jousting  horsemanship, bravery and gallantry. This one-of-a-kind show for all ages is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5 in the grandstand. Reserved seating is $15. General admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.d8ae15ce-5b6b-4f80-95c0-84c6bca1ada7

Free educational events will offered by the Knights on Tuesday, Aug. 4 in the arena so you can learn about the history of the ancient sport and the medieval times. Times have yet to be announced.

Camel and Ostrich races at the Extreme Invitational Rodeo
Are you ready for some action-packed fun at the Hardee’s Extreme Invitational Rodeo? Intermission entertainment will feature Camel and Ostrich races. Fun for the young and the young at heart.

Two nights of awesome begin at 7:30  p.m. on Aug. in the grandstand. Reserved seating is $15. General admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Motocross at the Ozark Empire Fair.
Top racers from nine states will compete on the jump-equipped dirt floor in front of the Ozark Empire Fair Grandstands , soaring over 60 feet in the air. From kids on their 50cc bikes, to the pro’s on their 450cc fire breathing SX bikes straight off the                  AMA Supercross circuit , these guy’s will leave you gasping in amazement.

Outlaw Nationals Monster Truck Show
The Outlaw Nationals are returning to the fair in 2015. See Bounty Hunter, Iron Outlaw, Barbarian, Tailgator and more to be announced. Plus don’t forget to bring $10 to take a ride on the monster ride truck! Don’t miss the metal-crunching, ear-splitting, car-smashing dare devils do battle at the Fairgrounds. You will also get to see the full-size big cars in demo-derby and the mini cars in a fierce figure 8 race, all told a night of total destruction.

Missouri Pulling, Truck and Tractor Pulls
The Missouri Pulling Truck and Tractor Pull Tour will be held on Thursday, Aug. 6th in the grandstand, a family friendly event.

Giraffe feeding at Dickerson Park Zoo
The Ozark Empire Fair is next door to one of the coolest zoos around. The Dickerson Park Zoo has more than 340 animals from all around the world. You can get within inches of your favorite animals, learn from expert handlers and even feed a giraffe! Be sure to set aside a bit of time while in the area and enjoy on of Springfield’s best attractions.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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