Nontraditional Fare at the State Fair

By Sunny Cadwallader

When one goes to the fair, one should partake in the traditional offerings.

Fry bread, fried candy bars, candy apples, funnel cakes and corn dogs come to mind. As a kid growing up in Arizona, I would have eaten all of those items without giving it a thought.

Traditional ride offerings include the Ferris wheel, fun house, roller coaster, giant slide and spinning rides. As a kid growing up in Arizona, I would have ridden all of those rides without giving it a thought.

Sadly…I am no longer a kid.

The traditional isn’t as healthy for me in my adult life and, well, let’s just say that rides and my digestive system no longer see eye-to-eye.

Where does that leave one when they attend the fair as an adult then?

Watching eSports, of course!


Early in my mom life, I was a soccer mom. When my youngest came around, however, I became a gamer mom

I don’t know if that is a thing like soccer mom, but it probably should be in today’s world. My son isn’t a competitive gamer, per se. He does enjoy playing and watching video games.

Yes, watching.

Some of you gamer moms out there know what I am talking about. Think of it like a coach or player watching game film or training videos. Not only are you learning about your opponent, but you’re learning how to improve your own game.


Because just like in traditional sports, they want to win, obviously. They also want to improve their own game. And, if they are on a team, they want to help them win too.

And so it was under that premise that I found myself attending the Arizona State Fair – one I attended often as a kid – not for the food or rides or even the animals (gasp). I attended for e-sports.

20191012_143234 (“You didn’t come to see me?”, Bahama-Llama said)


For those that say eSports isn’t sports, I present my arguments above as well as saying,

So What!

I get it. Traditions are very hard to change. I mean, it’s hard for me to change some of my own traditions or habits. Could you ever imagine a day where the “i” isn’t dotted at an Ohio State game? Or, there is no HBCU game on Thanksgiving Day? Or, a Mexico match without a certain chant?

For better or worse, traditions can be changed.

Esports may not be the athletic activity that many of us grew up with, but it is very much a physical and mental endeavor, particularly at the highest level. There are even companies out there looking to specialize in gamer nutrition.

For even more of a traditional twist, a sports and entertainment agency (Roc Nation) signed its first e-sports player last week.

Not to mention the rise of soccer clubs around the world starting e-sports teams (for FIFA gaming). Too, college and universities are seeing a rise in club and competitive e-sports teams.

Which brings me back to the fair.


I missed the Territorial Cup clash on Friday night between Arizona State (ASU) and Arizona (UofA). The Sun Devils and Wildcats were joined by 5 other area colleges and universities in the Arizona E-sports Collegiate Cup. Benedictine University, Grand Canyon University (GCU), Northern Arizona University, Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) and University of Advanced Technology-Tempe all joined in the tournament.


Attending last Saturday (the fair runs until Oct. 27) I made sure to bring my gamer son to help me along the way. Looking at the screens, I was pretty clueless.


Terms like Control, Hybrid, Defend, Secure. Sure those sound good in military jargon or as cars, but in game play? Yeah, no clue.

What does that mean? Who is shooting who? I can’t hear the announcer. What did he say? Who won?

My ever-patient son walked me through the process. 

On this day, we watched Arizona State vs CGCC in the first match. At one point, I thought CGCC was doing well only to find out that they lost 3-0. We stayed for the next match because it was GCU vs UofA.


Still unable to hear anything the announcer was saying because the sound system was bad, I could feel the tension in the room. The ‘Lopes and ‘Cats battled hard. GCU had a chance to tie it up in overtime (yes, really, there is OT in eSports), but it was to no avail. UofA won, 3-2 (I think), to set up a finals match with rival ASU.

At press time, I don’t know who won this eSports Territorial Cup battle. Go Devils, Go Cats! We play no favorites here at Somos Sports.

>> UPDATE: ASU beat UofA for the Arizona E-sports Collegiate Cup title.


Still, the idea to have an eSports tournament at the fair shows that fair organizers are open to non-traditional offerings for this generation of (e) sports fans.

eSports is growing.

The Fiesta Bowl in Arizona held a collegiate tournament during the last game’s festivities. There is talk of a new eSports network coming in 2020 (VENN). The NBA has partnered with 2K Games to start a NBA 2K20 Global Championship with preliminary tournaments beginning later this month. 

A study by Newzoo indicates that the eSports industry could top $1 billion this year alone with an increase to nearly $2 billion by 2022.

Viewership numbers, well, they are growing as well.


Let’s see.

Increase in revenue. Increase in viewership. Potential for growth in eSports nutrition business. Growth at universities. Recognition and partnerships with globally recognized teams and brands.

And, introductions to new fans at state fairs like in Arizona.

Seems like any other growing, traditional sport to me.

Now, if only I could eat the Navajo Taco or…