The East Texas State Fair will be energized with the beat of country and rock 'n' roll music. 

For the first time, the fair will feature two large-scale concerts — one headlined by Aaron Watson and the other by Bret Michaels.

The concerts are additions to a century's-old celebration that showcases agriculture and crafts and offers thrill rides, carnival games, food and educational exhibits. 

The fair runs from Friday through Sept. 29 on the fairgrounds at 2000 W. Front St., Tyler. 

Entertainment

Although the fair has for years presented live music, this is the first time larger acts have been booked to create an outdoor concert experience, said Cody Rosenbalm, director of marketing of The Park at East Texas, the fair's parent company. 

The concerts will be held on the east side of the fairgrounds in a restricted-access area around the Stonewater Roofing Stage.

"We're going to create the experience of being in the middle of a party and make the concertgoers feel like they are immersed in the action," Rosenbalm said. "They (concerts) will have cool lighting and special effects. A 30-foot catwalk will jut out into the standing-room crowd. Everyone will be close to the action."

Watson, who has headlined the sold-out Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival in Tyler, will perform on Sept. 21 with Chris Colston as the opening Act. Watson is on tour promoting his new album, "Red Bandanna."

Rocker Bret Michaels, who has a solo career after being the front man of Poison, will perform on Sept. 28. Ashmore will be the opening act. 

Tickets to each concert cost $30 and include entry into the fair. 

Another new attraction is the Nerveless Nocks, a thrill  show that features a family of acrobats performing 80 feet off the round on sway poles. 

"It is super impressive," Rosenbalm said of the act. 

The show also includes stunt riders racing motorcycles within the confines of an 18-foot-tall steel ball cage.   

Other entertainment that is free with admission include Sea Lion Splash; Kardenni the magician; Duelly Noted, the singing duo of Jacy Smith and Cossondra Meyer; and Rock Bottom Boys, who perform bluegrass music and comedy. 

Local bands and singers also will be featured each night.

Entertainment is not the fair's only drawing card.

"Our target audience is everybody," Rosenbalm said. "We have attractions that appeal to every demographic from children and teens to the older crowd and the ag people. And we know that some people just come for the food."

Discover Texas

The fair continues to embrace its origins with livestock shows and agriculture-centered attractions, he said. 

New is Discover Texas, a building filled with exhibits about where fiber used to make clothing and food come from. It also will house the GO TEXAN Market, a store full of salsa, spices, sauces, honey, soaps and jams made in Texas.

Twenty companies will offer 85 products for sale, said information from the fair.

Several times a day, Discovery Texas will house cooking demonstrations by radio talk show host Dianne Linderman. She promotes quick-to-prepare meals that are healthy.

Events

The 50th Annual Senior Day is scheduled for Friday. Seniors 55 and older will receive free admission until 7 p.m. Special activities for seniors are scheduled in the Rose Garden Center from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The University of Texas at Tyler students who present their college ID will receive free admission on Sept. 26. 

Students ages 18 and under will receive free admission on Monday through Wednesday if they print off a student ticket from the fair's website and present it at the gate. 

The annual "Howdy Neighbor" Barbecue & Hay Auction is set from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 23 in Harvey Convention Center. 

Attractions

Harvey Convention Center will house the The Market Place vendors market, The Photography Show and Horticulture Show.

Among attractions in the exhibit buildings will be Creative Arts contest entries and the Craft Beer Tour.

The midway by North American Midway Entertainment will include dozens of rides. 

The livestock competitions will take place in the pavilions on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds.

The fair attracts about 250,000 people each year when taking into account exhibitors, vendors, contest participants, school groups, entertainers, workers, sponsors and volunteers, according to information from The Park of East Texas.

The fair also holds the Academic Rodeo, a series of competitions for students.

Since 1992, the Fair has awarded $825,000 in scholarships to youth.

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