In a midway world where Scooby-Doo sits with tigers and Minions, Deltron Wilson with JBS Concession stocked his shelves with stuffed animals to get ready for Friday's opening of the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park.

In a midway world where Scooby-Doo sits with tigers and Minions, Deltron Wilson with JBS Concession stocked his shelves with stuffed animals to get ready for Friday's opening of the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park.

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

OK, we get it. No selfie sticks. But what else is new at the State Fair of Texas?

Let's start with the Light Crust Doughboys.

In the world of Western swing, no band in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has had more or longer-running success: Founded in 1931, the group has been inducted into several musical halls of fame and was dubbed by the Texas Legislature as "the official music ambassadors of the Lone Star State" in 1995.

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With a current lineup featuring Grammy Award winner Art Greenhaw and Dion Pride, son of country legend Charley Pride, the band is among the highlights of the 2015 State Fair of Texas, which kicks off Friday at Fair Park.

"We are more than just an event to buy a corny dog at and ride a ride," State Fair of Texas president Mitchell Glieber said earlier this month at a fundraising dinner for the fair's scholarship programs at Plano's III Forks restaurant.

Still, this year's State Fair has a lot to live up to. Despite public fears about Ebola and a storm that temporarily brought the midway to a halt, the 2014 State Fair collected more than $42 million in coupon sales, setting a record and making it the most successful run in the fair's 128-year history.

That run included a record $112,000 bid for prize steer "Buzz" at the annual Youth Livestock Auction and, for the first time ever, a Big Tex Choice Award winner completely sold out before the fair's end -- Justin Martinez's Funnel Cake Ale, winner of the Most Creative award.

"Every year, the big thing for us is to be able to refine the product and keep it fresh, yet keep the traditions in place," Glieber said. "It's a balancing act."

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This year's theme is "Passport to Texas," a continuation of the fair's "Texification" efforts aiming to promote the Lone Star State. (Last year's theme was "Deep in the Heart of Texans.")

That's where the venerable Light Crust Doughboys come in, so named for their one-time association with Fort Worth's Light Crust Flour advertising. They're among the headliners of Big Texas Music, the rotating annual exhibit at Fair Park's Hall of State, which will honor native and honorary native Texas artists with memorabilia, displays and live music.

Another new feature is the Lone Star Horse Spectacular at Pan Am Arena, where professional riders on horseback will perform roping and other stunts in conjunction with a showcase of Texas history. The show is narrated by actor and Texas native Barry Corbin.

"We haven't had a horse show for many years" at the fair, said spokeswoman Karissa Condoianis. Given the fair's agricultural and livestock roots, "we wanted to find a way to incorporate horses on a day-to-day basis. It's a salute to the old State Fairs of Texas."

Ginger Duke, riding Roman-style, holds her horses as she waits to go into the Pan Am Arena to rehearse for the Lone Star Horse Spectacular at the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park. Professional riders will perform roping tricks and other stunts in conjunction with a showcase of Texas history. The new show is narrated by actor and Texas native Barry Corbin.

Ginger Duke, riding Roman-style, holds her horses as she waits to go into the Pan Am Arena to rehearse for the Lone Star Horse Spectacular at the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park. Professional riders will perform roping tricks and other stunts in conjunction with a showcase of Texas history. The new show is narrated by actor and Texas native Barry Corbin.

The Dallas Morning News

Though Ebola is long gone, Big Tex, the fair's 55-foot-tall cowboy icon, will continue to remind fairgoers to wash their hands, and a number of hand-sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the fairgrounds.

For the first time since 2012, Big Tex will offer no surprises: He's the same old Tex, with 11 mechanized movements and his usual quiver of quotes. But the fair is introducing a mascot -- basically a smaller version of Big Tex that officials are calling, simply, "little Big Tex."

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Those looking to experience the State Fair more affordably can do so on the fair's new "Thrifty Thursdays," when participating vendors will offer signature items, or mini-versions of them, for a discount. Included are items such as Frito pie, funnel cake, fried pickles and Fletcher's Bird Dog -- a turkey version of the famous Corny Dog.

Those Thursdays -- Oct. 1, 8 and 15 -- are a double bonus for attendees over 60, who get free fair admission as well.

What else is new this year? Twice the pyrotechnics at the Illumination Sensation show. A rooster-crowing contest on the fair's closing day, where competitors will vie to coerce their birds to emit the highest number of cock-a-doodle-doos.

And, of course, the fair's annual auto show, the largest in the Southwest, which will roll out manufacturers' 2016 models.

It's safe to say none of those vehicles will resemble the fair's new "Beer Haven," a 53-foot truck with 60 beers on tap that will operate daily. And beer imbibers get another bonus on the fair's final weekend, when a Texas craft beer festival will grace the floor of the Cotton Bowl.

"A lot of people never get to step on that field," Condoianis said, "so it's not only an opportunity to learn about craft beers but to experience that as well."

Fair officials are launching a new ticketing process this year, in which bar-coded tickets will be scanned as fairgoers enter the grounds. It's part of a multiphased effort to dispense with hard tickets; eventually officials hope tickets will be fully electronic and downloadable onto smartphones.

That will eventually help administrators determine more exact attendance figures, which are currently estimated based on coupon sales.

And don't forget: Leave your selfie sticks at home.

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