By Shari Goldstein Stern
It’s not unusual to hear about a hyper-fan visiting the State Fair of Texas as many as two or three times during its three-week run in the fall. They may attend once with friends, another time with their partner or spouse, and once again with children.
Melinda (Mindy) Fagin, a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, discovered her joy for the Fair early in life, and for 21 days every year she is preoccupied with the adventure.
“I love the Fair. It is my happy place,” the Big Tex groupie said. “I like to go alone a few times each year so I can do what I want; a few times with family and friends; and I love taking someone who has never been before.”
The loyal guest usually makes it a busy day five to seven times each season. “I have only missed three opening days: the year I was born; my first year of law school; and last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A history with the State Fair runs proudly in Fagin’s family.
Fagin’s grandfather, Milton Angrist was 23 when the State Fair of Texas 1936 Centennial took over Dallas. Angrist lived just down the street from Fair Park on South Boulevard. After graduating from the YMCA Law School at Southern Methodist University at night, he worked for his brother-in-law’s law firm during the day and the Fair at night, he was a concessionaire at one of the exhibits.
“On breaks he would peek in at the dancing girls’ shows and the ‘new-fangled’ attractions. He never tired of seeing the new exhibits and eating cotton candy,” his granddaughter recalled from stories she’s heard. “For decades I went to the Fair with my Bubby Fannie and Zadey Milton.
“When I worked at my Zadey’s law office as a girl and then again when I began practicing law, we would take the bus from downtown, have lunch at Fletcher’s, grab a Belgian waffle from the Zables, and then come back downtown. We did it five or six times a year.”
Fagin continued, “I love going with my dad now. We enjoy perusing the Creative Arts Building together,” the devotee said.
The pair watches the opening day parade downtown together and then heads off to the Fair. “After the car show, pig races, the Greenhouse and Lagoon, I sit on the steps of the Hall of State at night just before the evening parade and watch the lights begin to twinkle downtown and feel like I am with them [her grandparents] all over again,” she added. “It warms my heart.”
Fagin, a Dallas native and attorney, graduated from Hillcrest High School. She holds a bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin since 1985. In 1988 she earned her JD from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans.
“I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 8. I have been a solo practitioner my entire legal career which started in 1989,” she said. From 1989-2017, Fagin practiced primarily in criminal defense and family law. Now she practices estate planning part-time and volunteers for various organizations part-time.
Fagin has been entering the Creative Arts competitions for jams for about 20 years. She has won six blue ribbons, and 15 to 20 other ribbons and honorable mentions.
“Last year I won a blue ribbon for my fig jam. It was my first time making it so that was pretty exciting,” she said.
This year Fagin entered four jams: peach heat, raspberry orange, ginger peach and hot pepper. She also entered two images in the photo competition because she wanted to try something new.
Fagin has two daughters, ages 26 and 23. Her husband, Jeff Smirin works for Atmos Energy. Both of her daughters entered the Creative Arts competitions when they were younger and won ribbons in several categories. Both were recipients of Big Tex scholarships for college.
When asked about her first stop or two at this year’s fair, Fagin replied: “Easy peasy: Fletcher’s Veggie dogs meet my vegetarian choice and fried butter meets my fried craving. But if they don’t have fried butter, then I will try something new. That cotton candy taco was delicious a few years ago.”
The State Fair of Texas opens Sept. 24 and runs through Oct. 16 at Fair Park.
For Fair information, visit bigtex.com.