That wispy swirl of cotton candy, a classic Pima County Fair favorite, has a new taste this year: bacon.
Bacon-flavored cotton candy joins staples like funnel cake and turkey legs on the fair menu, satisfying both the nostalgic and adventurous palate.
Starting today and running through April 28, tradition and quirky novelties will collide in an explosion of neon lights.
The diversity also holds true with the fair's musical lineup, which includes returning acts such as Easton Corbin, and newer attendees such as the Silversun Pickups.
"We select our entertainment to fit all ages. We used to do a lot more classic rock from the '70s, but now classic rock is considered music from the '80s and '90s," said Launa Rabago, the fair's marketing and entertainment manager. "As the community ages, we change our entertainment."
The Silversun Pickups, an alternative rock band that got its start in 2002, kicks off the fair's concert series Friday.
"When you play something that's not necessarily about you, we get really excited about that," said band singer and guitarist Brian Aubert during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "It's fun to be part of something that has people there regardless of you, and you're just sort of the music. I think that invigorates us a little bit."
The Silversun Pickups isn't a stranger to Tucson: the group has played Hotel Congress and calls it a favorite spot. The band's stop at the Pima County Fair this year starts its latest, national tour, and Aubert looks forward to performing for loyal and new fans.
"When you're playing for people who have never heard you, it's fun to hear their reactions," Aubert said. "You just are. They bring no baggage. You're just up there, and they're reacting naturally."
From the iconic Ferris wheel to the blue-ribbon-winning livestock, the fair is all about creating memories. With a fair that's been around since 1911, nostalgia is a given.
"Seeing the gates open and people running in to be the first in line at the concert or on a carnival ride makes me smile," the fair's Rabago said in an email. "It makes me remember when I was a kid running to get on the roller coaster."
Aubert remembers his own first carnival ride, at a small fair in England.
"The ride was a rinky-dink thing, and it sent you upside down, and we weren't sitting in it right, but this guy was going to hit the crank whether we got on right or not," Aubert said. "We pulled that bar down while it started. … We're always trying to chase that thrill."
The rides at the Pima County Fair are inspected each morning, Rabago said, their spinning seats and flashing lights only a small part of the fair experience.
"People like to be surprised, but people also like to know that they will be able to see pig races or a demolition derby or a pie baking contest," Rabago said.
If that inner thrill-seeker still isn't satisfied, there's always alligator-on-a-stick to sample. That's right. Alligator.
Follow that up with some bacon-flavored cotton candy, and you've got yourself the finest in fair dining.
If You Go:
•What: The annual Pima County Fair.
• Main Gate Hours: 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (or later depending on crowds) Saturday and Sunday. Continues through April 28.
•Carnival Hours: 3 p.m. to close weekdays, 11 a.m. to close Saturday and Sunday. Continues to next Sunday. •Where: Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road, off Interstate 10.
•Cost: $8 admission, $5 parking, additional costs for some attractions. Discounts available.
• Schedule/Information: 762-3247; pimacountyfair.com.
Johanna Willett is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org