CLOSE
Original image
statefairofwv.com

46 State Fairs and What Makes Them Special

Original image
statefairofwv.com

One of the most quintessentially American traditions of all is the State Fair. New Englander Elkanah Watson is credited with creating the first agricultural fair in the U.S.: the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Cattle Show in 1811, which exhibited animals and awarded prize money to the best oxen, cattle, swine, and sheep. In the next few years, county fairs popped up throughout New England, and by 1841, the country had its first state fair, in Syracuse, New York, designed to show off New York’s agricultural prowess with livestock and giant-vegetable competitions.

Today, there are over 3200 fairs in North America each year, according to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, and attendance is booming. Several draw over a million visitors each year. You’ll still find most of the things you’d have seen at those early fairs today: a chance to show off the best agriculture, livestock, horticulture and other products from that region, even though far fewer Americans are involved in agriculture than when they got started. But you’ll also find a whole lot more, and part of the appeal is unabashed celebration of sheer quirkiness—where else can you find veggies on steroids, moose-calling contests, butter sculptures, and not just racing pigs, but racing dogs with monkey jockeys? 

Here are a few highlights of what you’ll find at fairs across the country today.

1. ALABAMA — Alabama State Fair

Location: Pelham, AL
In operation since: 1947
Standout events: Alabama might be the only fair with more events in the modeling and talent competitions than livestock competitions. They’re serious, too: Aspiring models ages 4 to 28 are judged on runway, jeans, and swimwear, and those past age 15 must meet height requirements. Winners get photo shoots and meetings with agents—a big step up from the ribbons sheep and horse show winners get. 

2. ALASKA — Alaska State Fair


Location: Palmer, AK
In operation since: 1936
Standout events: Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to Alaska for the state fair. But if you happen to be in town, you can witness a peculiarly Alaskan pastime—giant cabbage growing. Alaska’s farmers seem to have a knack for growing steroidal vegetables. The most recent world record, in 2012, went to Scott Rabb and his 138 pound cabbage (above).

If mega-vegetables aren’t your thing, maybe you’d have better luck in the speed-texting or moose calling competitions. Note: must know the difference between—and demonstrate—separate bull and cow calls.  

3. ARIZONA — Arizona State Fair

Location: Phoenix, AZ
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: Most states’ fairs feature unique sources of state pride, so you’d think that Arizona might have gone with the Grand Canyon. Instead they created Trekkie Mecca. Of course, there are all the standard state fair attractions—performances, cooking and livestock competitions, a demolition derby and midway—but according to their website, organizers are especially proud of the exhibit featuring sets, costumes, and props from all five Star Trek TV series and 11 movies. Live long and prosper.

4. ARKANSAS — Arkansas State Fair


Location: Little Rock, AR
In operation since: 1938
Standout events: Arkansas’s events include the Great American Spam Cooking contest, but the real competition centers on the pageants, where fairgoers vie for the title of Fair Queen, Rodeo Queen, Mrs. Fair Queen, and Little Mr. and Miss Pageant. For those craving more adrenaline-fueled competition, it’s also a tour stop for a team of professional bull riders.

5. CALIFORNIA — California State Fair


BigFun.org

Location: Sacramento, CA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: The highlight of California’s state fair in the early 1900s was a massive train crash staged each year to delight audiences with destruction, mayhem, and screaming twisted metal. It came to an end around WWI, when wrecking much-needed locomotives just for the fun of it was deemed a little too wasteful. Today, fairgoers can enjoy a calmer spectacle: the state fair is home to the oldest wine competition in North America, with over 2800 entries each year. Yes, fairgoers get to taste.

6. COLORADO — Colorado State Fair

SaffireEvent

Location: Pueblo, CO
In operation since: 1872
Standout events: Lots of states have pageants, but only Colorado crowns a silver queen. It’s your typical pageant with one catch: all competitors must be nursing home residents. At the other end of the spectrum is the Little Britches Rodeo National Championships – these kids can ride. But there’s a competition for everyone in Colorado, even the less athletically oriented: it’s the only state fair offering a Pet Rock Olympics. 

7. DELAWARE — Delaware State Fair

Location: Harrington, DE
In operation since: 1920
Standout events: Delaware’s fair features a no less than five-day horseshoe pitching contest, and crowns a whole family: the Sheep and Wool Queen, Sheep and Wool Lass, Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep. Perhaps they get a leg up in the wool contest displaying the best-quality wool outfit and coordinating wool sheep?

8. FLORIDA — Florida State Fair

Location of fair: Tampa, FL
In operation since: 1904
Standout events: Florida is one of a surprising number of fairs that have added llamas to their livestock competitions. Some of last year’s winners had racehorse-worthy names—Oakrest’s First Snow, “Moose” Aladdin’s Sneak Preview, Peruvian Edison—but there’s also the less-exotic “Yeti.”

Young llama farmers are still second to the more traditional main attraction: Only kids showing steers get a portrait with their champion.

9. GEORGIA — Georgia State Fair


Location: Macon, GA
In operation since: 1851
Standout events: One fair wasn’t enough for Georgia. The official state-sponsored fair is the Georgia National Fair, but the longest-running is the Georgia State Fair. Perhaps it’s because only the State Fair offers the Banana Derby. The race features “America’s favorite monkey jockeys”—elaborately costumed capuchins that race on canine steeds. 

10. HAWAII — 50th State Fair

Location: Honolulu, HI
In operation since: 1937
Standout events: At Hawaii’s 50th State Fair, it’s all about the rides, some of which are shipped in from the mainland just for the event. According to an interview with fair organizers in Honolulu Pulse, the Zipper is the fair’s best-loved ride. The ride, in which fairgoers ride in spinning cages that dangle from chains flung around by a rotating arm, was so beloved that when the company organizing the fair sold the ride, the outcry was so strong they went out and bought a new one. The fair had a bit of an identity crisis in its early years, when for over a decade it was known as the 49th State Fair. Apparently, no one expected they’d get beat out by Alaska. 

11. IDAHO — Eastern Idaho State Fair

Location: Blackfoot, ID
In operation since: 1902
Standout events: For a truly one-of-a-kind sport, check out Idaho’s Indian Relays. Tribal teams from throughout the Rockies and High Plains regions come to compete in a dangerous bareback race requiring teams of three horses and four people. A rider must make three laps around the track, leaping to a new horse after each lap. Two teammates calm the waiting horse, while the fourth catches the arriving horse as the rider dismounts. Broken bones are not uncommon, but the $25,000 prizes—and particularly the bragging rights—make it a big draw.

12. ILLINOIS — Illinois State Fair

Location: Springfield, IL
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: Need for speed? The fair’s one-mile dirt track is considered one of the fastest in the world. Numerous horse racing records have been set there, including the fastest mile ever paced, but it’s now home to stock car racing as well—raising the speed limit considerably.

There’s also a celebrity harness race, a lesser-known form of horse racing in which the celebrity is jammed into a small, lightweight cart rolling on bicycle wheels and must guide his team of two horses to victory. “Celebrity” is a relative term—it’s decidedly local, generally drawing state politicians and officials.

13. INDIANA — Indiana State Fair

Location: Indianapolis, IN
In operation since: 1852
Standout events: It’s the year of popcorn in Indiana, the second-largest popcorn-producing state in the nation (we can barely imagine what they’d have done were they the biggest). Each year, fairgoers consume 4350 pounds of popcorn, but this year they decided to celebrate with a world record-setting 5200 pound popcorn ball, along with a popcorn maze. No word yet whether fairgoers will get to sneak a bite.

14. IOWA — Iowa State Fair

Location: Des Moines, IA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: If you want the classic fair experience, Iowa’s the place to do it. It's also the only fair with an unabashed love of butter, thanks to the state's dairy industry. Check out the butter cow, a 100-plus year tradition in which a life-size cow is sculpted from 600 pounds of butter—enough to top 19,200 slices of toast, while snacking on a pork chop on a stick, one of which is sold about every 10 seconds throughout the fair.

15. KANSAS — Kansas State Fair

Location: Hutchinson, KS
In operation since: 1913
Standout events: If you really can do anything with duct tape, the Kansas State Fair is for you. In addition to the auction bid calling contest, spelling bee, and more traditional fair competitions—including an astonishing variety of pigeon judging events—fairgoers can compete on their ability to make things out of duct tape, with a separate competition for wearable creations.

16. KENTUCKY — Kentucky State Fair

Location: Louisville, KY
In operation since: 1902
Standout events: It’s no surprise the state home to the Kentucky Derby also hosts the World’s Championship Horse Show. More than 2000 horses compete for world champion titles and over $1 million in prize money.

17. LOUISIANA — Louisiana State Fair

Location: Shreveport, LA
In operation since: 1906
Standout events: Louisiana is home to a few competitions you won’t see anywhere else—leaf collecting and BB-gun sharpshooting, for starters. If you’re looking for a little more action, the cheerleading championships promise high-flying stunts. 

18. MAINE — Bangor State Fair

Location: Bangor, ME
In operation since: 1849
Standout events: The Bangor State Fair is home to one of the few eating contests you might want to join in on: the annual lobster roll contest. Last year’s winner devoured a whopping 37 rolls in 8 minutes, so taking home the title might be tough, but it’s one way to get your fill of an East Coast delicacy. Maine also offers a grizzly bear show – just don’t let the bears smell your sandwiches. 

19. MARYLAND — Maryland State Fair

Location: Timonium, MD
In operation since: 1878
Standout events: Most fairs have human pageants; Maryland has one for the livestock. On the fair’s opening day, kids competing in the livestock contests can parade their animals through the “Cow Palace” in homemade costumes, while announcers describe the stories behind their get-ups. 

20. MASSACHUSETTS — Eastern States Exposition

Location: Springfield, MA
In operation since: 1917
Standout events: In terms of state fair bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat the Eastern States Exposition, also known as “the Big E.” Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont join forces for a single New England mega-fair. Highlights include Mardi Gras-in-September, world-famous cream puffs, and the Big E Craz-E Burger—a bacon cheeseburger with two halves of a grilled glazed donut instead of a bun. 

21. MICHIGAN — Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair

Location: Novi, MI
In operation since: 1849
Standout events: Michigan’s state fair is something of an endangered species. The state cut all funding in 2009 and the fair disappeared for the next two years—despite some claims that state law actually required the Michigan Exposition and Fairgrounds Authority to conduct an annual fair. It’s now back as the “Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair.” One of its more bizarre features: a family exhibit known as the “fallen giant,” entered through a bloody hole in the giant’s head. 

22. MINNESOTA — Minnesota State Fair

Location: St. Paul, MN
In operation since: 1859
Standout events: “County Dairy Princesses” vie for the title Princess Kay of the Milky Way. The winner—chosen for her knowledge of the dairy industry, personality and enthusiasm for promoting dairy—becomes a goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s 4000 dairy farmers and is immortalized with a statue of her face carved in butter.

23. MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi State Fair

Location: Jackson, MS
In operation since: 1859
Standout events: The carnival is center stage at the Mississippi State Fair: Its midway is crammed with roller coasters, games and spin-til-you-can’t-stand-it rides, and stretches a full mile long. They also boast a “Mr. Legs” contest, with a category for everyone: longest, shortest, skinniest and hairiest.

24. MISSOURI — Missouri State Fair

Location: Sedalia, MO
In operation since: 1901
Standout events: It’s only fitting that in the Show-Me State, fairgoers can get how-to lessons from the expert exhibitors, not just look. Whether you want to learn to bowfish, cook and clean your catch, raise livestock or pair fine wines, there’s a class to help you do it. 

25. MONTANA — Montana State Fair

Location: Great Falls, MT
In operation since: 1931
Standout events: Plenty of fairs have craft contests, but only Montana has speed-crafting. Each year, competitors can vie for the title of “Fastest Crochet Hook in Montana” and “Fastest Needle in Montana,” along with the Veggie 500—think Pinewood derby cars topped with onions, broccoli and rhubarb—and Ole Cow Lick Contest, featuring carved salt blocks in two categories: hand-sculpted and “Nature Carved” (i.e., sculpted by cow tongue). 

26. NEBRASKA — Nebraska State Fair

Location: Grand Island, NE
In operation since: 1868
Standout events: If rodeos make you think of cattle roping and bull riding, you’ve missed out on Nebraska’s Lineworkers Rodeo. Electric lineworkers take to the arena to showcase the high wire stunts they do to keep the power running, day-to-day and in emergencies. Why, you ask? Nebraska’s the only state served entirely by community-owned electric utilities.  

27. NEW HAMPSHIRE — Hopkinton State Fair

Location: Contoocook, NH
In operation since: 1915
Standout events: New Hampshire’s Hopkinton State Fair has long offered demolition derby and car racing events. New this year is the “Divorce Course”—a timed passenger car obstacle course, open to the public. The name speaks for itself. 

28. NEW JERSEY — New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show

Location: Augusta, NJ
In operation since: 1924
Standout events: Despite its reputation as the land of interstates and industry, the Garden State’s agricultural fair has a long history. There are livestock shows and livestock obstacle courses, while humans can compete for the title of Lumberjack/Lumberjill in the annual wood chopping contest. 

29. NEW MEXICO — New Mexico State Fair

Location: Albuquerque, NM
In operation since: 1939
Standout events: Food is a main attraction at any fair, but New Mexico takes it a step further with the Unique Food Contest. Last year’s winners: Mini Donuts with Green Chile Icing, Fried Beer, and a Donut Burger. 

30. NEW YORK — The Great New York State Fair

Location: Syracuse, NY
In operation since: 1841
Standout events: As the site of the country’s first state fair, New York pays more attention to history than most. Between the fully-furnished log cabin with demonstrations of 18th century farm life, recreated Iroquois village, blacksmithing, and collection of horsedrawn vehicles, antique tractors and trains, and modern-day agricultural exhibits, it’s like zooming through the New York’s history in a time machine bouncing pinball-style through the decades.

31. NORTH CAROLINA — North Carolina State Fair

Location: Raleigh, NC
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: North Carolina puts curious fairgoers to work at a fully-functioning old-fashioned tobacco barn. It kicks off with a leaf-stringing contest, and after the state champion is crowned, the leaves strung on sticks are hung in the barn and cured by a wood fire for seven days. Fairgoers get to see the fruits of their labor at the end, though they probably don't get to smoke them.

32. NORTH DAKOTA — North Dakota State Fair

Location: Minot, ND
In operation since: 1922
Standout events: North Dakota held its first-ever Redneck Relay in 2012. Teams panned for gold (fishing through a mountain of whipped cream, no hands allowed, to find three gold coins), had to toss four corn ears in a bucket, run with an egg balanced on a spoon, shave a balloon (a version of sheep shearing designed to spare unfortunate ungulates) and carry a “greased pig”—or Crisco-coated watermelon.

33. OHIO — Ohio State Fair

Location: Columbus, OH
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: Like to play with your food? Ohio’s state fair has a food sculpting contest, and while amateur carvers may have trouble competing with pro chefs’ four-foot high masterpieces, novices will be given specific fruits and three hours to transform them into art, Master Chef-style.

34. OKLAHOMA — Oklahoma State Fair

Location: Oklahoma City, OK
In operation since: 1907
Standout events: The Oklahoma State Fair is a stop on the “Swifty Swine” racing pigs’ tour. These piglets—“America’s fastest swine,” according to the fair schedule—zip around the Pork Chop International Speedway Arena to win an Oreo cookie prize. According to the pigs’ website, the Yorkshires are quickest but meanest. Potbellies are friendlier, but you wouldn’t want to bet on them being first across the line.

35. OREGON — Oregon State Fair

Location: Salem, OR
In operation since: 1861
Standout events: One of the Oregon state fair’s most popular contests is the Milk Mustache contest. The State Dairy Princess Ambassador picks the most impressive mustaches; for an easy win, head straight there from the milk carton chugging contest.

36. SOUTH CAROLINA — South Carolina State Fair

Location: Columbia, SC
In operation since: 1869
Standout events: In addition to showing off the state’s domestic products, there’s also a decidedly non-local competition: Ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging. The South Carolina Mule and Donkey Association also hosts a fun day with wacky rodeo antics, wild cow milking, and a porcine costume competition interrupting the typical swine show events. 

37. SOUTH DAKOTA — South Dakota State Fair

Location: Huron, SD
In operation since: 1885
Standout events: Unlike the cow-calling and cherry pit spitting contests you see at most fairs, the South Dakota state fair Strong Man Competition isn’t for the faint of heart. Contestants complete five challenges, including carrying a rock as far as possible without dropping it, and flipping a tractor tire as many times as possible in two minutes. The less athletically inclined can watch the “Legislative Beef Show”—this time, it’s state politicians leading cows around the arena, and they’re the ones being graded on their showmanship. 

38. TENNESSEE — Tennessee State Fair

Location: Nashville, TN
In operation since: 1906
Standout events: Read through the list of equine demonstrations at the Tennessee state fair and one likely jumps out: horse bomb proofing. It’s not what you’d think—bomb-proof horses are safe, calm horses that won’t bolt even if a bomb goes off (in theory). Since the point is that they don’t get rattled, the trick riding and roping might make more entertaining viewing, or head for the state cornhole championships, with cash prizes for the best-aiming team. 

39. TEXAS — State Fair of Texas

Location: Dallas, TX
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: Everything’s bigger in Texas, and the state fair is no exception. Their fair runs longer and brings in more visitors than any other—at 3 million, comfortably doubling the next largest states' attendance. So what’s everyone there to see? Quite a bit, judging by the fact that the fairgrounds are large enough to merit gondola tours. The fact that college football games are held on the fairgrounds certainly boosts attendance, but there’s also the Texas Auto Show, featuring new and classic cars, the “Picasso of pumpkin carvers,” and all the usual attractions. 

40. UTAH — Utah State Fair

Location: Salt Lake City, UT
In operation since: 1856
Standout events: Utah kids save their foulest-smelling footwear all year long for the state fair’s Rotten Sneaker Contest, sponsored by Odor Eaters. The winner gets a cash prize, Golden Sneaker award, and entry in the national smelly shoe championships.   

41. VERMONT — Vermont State Fair

Location: Rutland, VT
In operation since: 1846
Standout events: California used to draw state fair crowds by slamming two locomotives together for fairgoers' viewing pleasure. They stopped the train-crash-as-entertainment during WWI, but the tradition lives on in Vermont as the Demolition Derby. Vermont bookends its state fair with grandstand stage demo derbys, with box seats available if you're worried about flying car parts. 

42. VIRGINIA — State Fair of Virginia

Location: Doswell, VA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: You know them from horror movies, but as art? Each year at Virginia's state fair, there's a chain saw show where an artist uses the whirring blades to turn three-foot logs into sculptures in a matter of minutes.

43. WASHINGTON — Washington State Fair

Meryl Schenker

Location: Puyallup, WA
In operation since: 1900
Standout events: Want to experience cute baby animals in the real world, not just as Internet memes on Buzzfeed? Washington State Fair's Piglet Palace lets you get a look at a litter of tiny pink piglets born during the fair. Just try not to think about the 24,868 pounds of barbecue pork spareribs fairgoers ate during last year's fair.  

44. WEST VIRGINIA — The State Fair of West Virginia

Location: Lewisburg, WV
In operation since: 1924
Standout events: West Virginia's Strongest Mountaineer Competition isn't for the faint of heart. Competitors are judged on events including a truck pull, dead lift, clean and press with a log and stone carry. Note: This isn't a strongman competition—women can compete to be West Virginia's Strongest Mountaineer, too.

45. WISCONSIN — Wisconsin State Fair

Location: West Allis, WI
In operation since: 1851
Standout events: Leading up to the fair, judges tour the state seeking the best of the best for the annual Moo-la-palooza competition to find Wisconsin’s most authentically mooing human. Winners—chosen for realism, style, stage presence and originality—get $1000, a cowprint jacket and golden cowbell trophy. Costumes encouraged. 

New this year is the “Sporkies,” a state fair food contest that encourages exotic creations (above). Several finalists for the Golden Spork award seem to be aiming for the “most creative”—separate from “best tasting”—title, and fairgoers can sample thanksgiving waffles, deep fried PB&J nuggets, and gelato-on-a-stick.

46. WYOMING — Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo

Location: Douglas, WY
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: When Wyoming held its first in 1886, it wasn’t even a state yet. Today’s fair is a bit different than the Territorial Fair. The rodeo, Wyoming Ropefest and Mustang Days—celebrating America’s wild horses—are always highlights, but so is pig wrestling. Teams of four enter a mud-slicked wrestling ring and have just one minute to catch a pig and wrestle it into a barrel. This is an elite event—all teams must first qualify by winning their county fair pig wrestling championship. 

Original image
Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
arrow
entertainment
XOXO: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Gossip Girl
Original image
Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ten years ago, Gossip Girl became appointment television for America’s teenagers—and a guilty pleasure for millions more (whether they wanted to admit it or not). Like a new millennium version of Beverly Hills, 90210, the series—which was adapted from Cecily von Ziegesar’s book series of the same name—saw The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage trade in their west coast cool for New York City style as the show followed the lives of a group of friends (and sometimes enemies) navigating the elite world of prep schools and being fabulous on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In honor of the series’ tenth anniversary, here are 20 things you might not have known about Gossip Girl.

1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LINDSAY LOHAN MOVIE.

Originally, the plan for adapting Gossip Girl wasn’t for a series at all. It was supposed to be a feature film, with Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino writing the script and Lindsay Lohan set to star as Blair Waldorf. When those plans fell through, the producers approached Josh Schwartz—who was just wrapping up work on The O.C.—about taking his talent for creating enviable high school worlds to New York City’s Upper East Side.

"The books are a soap opera, and TV makes a lot of sense," executive producer Leslie Morgenstein told Backstage of the decision to go the small-screen route. "When we made the list of writers who would be the best to adapt Gossip Girl for television, Josh was at the top of the list."

2. PENN BADGLEY INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF DAN HUMPHREY.

Barbara Nitke - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Though he was hardly a household name when Gossip Girl premiered, Penn Badgley had been acting for nearly a decade—and had a lot of experience working on first season TV shows that never took off—when he was offered the role of Brooklyn outsider Dan Humphrey, and his initial response was: thanks, but no thanks.

“The reason I turned it down initially was because I was just frustrated,” Badgley told Vulture in 2012. “I was frustrated and I was broke and I was depressed and I was like, ‘I cannot do that again. I can't.’ … Stephanie Savage, the creator [of Gossip Girl], she said to me, ‘I know you might not want to do this again, but just take a look at it.’ And I actually was like, ‘I appreciate so much that you thought of me. I just don't want to do this. Thank you for understanding that I wouldn't want to do this.’ And then they couldn't find anybody for it—which is weird, because a million people could play Dan Humphrey—and she came back around, I was about to get a job as a waiter, and I was like, ‘Okay.’”

3. ULTIMATELY, BADGLEY PROBABLY WISHES HE HAD FOLLOWED HIS INITIAL INSTINCT.

Badgley told Vulture that, “I wouldn't be here without Gossip Girl, so I will always be in debt and grateful. And I've said some sh*t that ... I don't regret it, but I'm just maybe too honest about it sometimes.”

But executive producer Joshua Safran had a different view on the situation. “Penn didn’t like being on Gossip Girl, but …. he was Dan,” Safran told Vanity Fair. “He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was.”

4. THE CREATORS GOT THE IDEA TO CAST BLAKE LIVELY FROM THE INTERNET.

According to Vanity Fair, when it came time to casting the show’s main roles, they cruised some of the online message boards related to the Gossip Girl book series to see which actors fans of the books were suggesting. One name they kept seeing for the role of Serena van der Woodsen: Blake Lively, who had starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. “We didn’t see a lot of other girls for Serena,” Schwartz said. “She has to be somebody that you believe would be sitting in the front row at Fashion Week eventually.”

5. LIKE BADGLEY, LIVELY WAS ON THE VERGE OF QUITTING ACTING.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

Like her onscreen (and eventually off-screen) love interest Penn Badgley, Blake Lively was also considering leaving Hollywood when Gossip Girl came calling, so she turned the producers down.

“I said, ‘No, I want to go to college. Thank you, though,’” Lively told Vanity Fair. “Then they said, ‘OK, you can go to Columbia [University] one day a week. After the first year [of the show], it’ll quiet down. Your life will go back to normal and you can start going to school. We can’t put it in writing, but we promise you can go.’ So that’s why I said, ‘OK. You know what? I’ll do this.’”

As for that going back to school and life going back to normal? “When they say, ‘We promise, but we can’t put it in writing,’ there’s a reason they can’t put it in writing,” she said.

6. LEIGHTON MEESTER DYED HER HAIR TO GET THE PART OF BLAIR.

Because Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen were both best friends and occasional enemies, it was important to the show’s creators that the characters did not look like the same person. That fact almost cost Leighton Meester the role of Blair.

“She came in and she was really funny, and really smart and played vulnerable,” Schwartz recalled of Meester’s audition. “But there was one problem: she was blonde. And Blake was blonde, obviously; Serena had to be blonde. So, [Leighton] went to the sink and dyed her hair. She wanted it.’” (Sounds like something Blair would do.)

7. THE NETWORK WORRIED THAT ED WESTWICK LOOKED LIKE A “SERIAL KILLER.”

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Ed Westwick, who originally auditioned for the role of Nate Archibald but ended up playing bad boy Chuck Bass, almost didn’t land a role on the show at all. Though the show’s co-creators, Schwartz and Savage, loved the darker edge that Westwick brought to the group of friends, The CW worried “that he looked more like a serial killer than a romantic lead.”

“He's menacing and scary, but there's a twinkle in his eye,” casting director David Rapaport told BuzzFeed. “You want to hate him, but you would also probably sleep with him. He's one of those guys you hate for always getting away with things, but you also want to hang out with him and see what he's up to next. He's the guy that's going to give you a joint for the first time or get you drunk for the first time, so you know he's wrong for you, but he's fun.” Fans clearly agreed.

8. WESTWICK CHANNELED HIS INNER CARLTON BANKS TO PLAY CHUCK BASS.

In order to perfect his posh American accent, Westwick—who was born in London—looked to another iconic American television character for help: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro). “There’s a slight thing in Carlton Banks,” Westwick told Details Magazine in 2008, “that kind of über-preppy, that I did pick up on.”

9. GRETA GERWIG AUDITIONED FOR THE SHOW … IN OVERALLS.

In 2015, Golden Globe-nominated actress Greta Gerwig—who just wrote and directed Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan—talked to HuffPost Live about the mistakes she made early on in her career as an actress. “I have had moments when I was starting out when I was auditioning for things like Gossip Girl," she said. “And they would look at me like, 'Why are you wearing overalls to this audition?' And I'd be like, 'They said she was from a farm!' and they would be like, 'Well, this is Gossip Girl.’” (The role she was auditioning for, Eva Coupeau—a love interest for Chuck—eventually went to Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter movies.

10. BLAIR WALDORF HAD TWO MOMS.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

In Gossip Girl’s pilot episode, Blair’s mom—popular women’s clothing designer Eleanor Waldorf—was played by Florencia Lozano. In episode two, and throughout the rest of the series, Eleanor was portrayed by Margaret Colin.

11. IT WAS ONE OF TELEVISION’S FIRST STREAMING SUCCESS STORIES.

Years before House of Cards changed the way we watch, and even define, “television,” Gossip Girl served as a sort of precursor to the streaming generation. While the show’s Nielsen ratings were mediocre, New York Magazine reported that, “New episodes routinely arrived at the No. 1 most-downloaded spot on iTunes, and then there were the hundreds of thousands who were downloading free week-old episodes on the CW's site. Even executives at Nielsen threw up their hands and admitted that Gossip Girl appeared to be speaking to an audience so young and tech-savvy they hadn't really figured it out just yet.” (Lost and The Office had followed similar tracks.)

12. THE SHOW WAS BANNED BY SOME NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

According to Vanity Fair, some of the elite New York City private schools that might have shared some similarities with the show’s fictional Constance Billard and St. Jude's banned their students from watching it. (Which, the outlet noted, “only served, in all likelihood, to make the students want to watch it more.”)

13. THE SERIES TURNED ITS CRITICISMS INTO A MARKETING CAMPAIGN.

Even by 2007’s standards, Gossip Girl—for a show about high schoolers on what was mainly known as a teen-friendly television network—seemed to relish in pushing the boundaries of what might be acceptable. It didn’t take long for parental advocacy groups like the Parent Television Council to take very public, and vocal, issue with the show's in-your-face sexuality. When it was criticized as being “mind-blowingly inappropriate” and “every parent’s nightmare,” the show turned those critiques into a marketing campaign to help promote viewership.

14. A WRITERS STRIKE HELPED THE SERIES GROW ITS VIEWERSHIP.

While the show struck a chord with certain audiences immediately upon its release, the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike proved to be a boon to the series. “The CW, because they couldn’t just run repeats or game shows, [Gossip Girl is] all they had,” Schwartz told Vanity Fair. “They kept re-running the show during the strike so more and more people were watching.” Which led to even higher ratings when the show returned for a second season.

15. DESIGNERS WERE BEGGING TO SEE THEIR FASHIONS WORN ON THE SHOW.

Giovanni Rufino - © 2012 THE CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Just like New York City itself, the fashions in Gossip Girl essentially served as another character. According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Merchants, designers, and trend consultants say that Gossip Girl … is one of the biggest influences on how young women spend."

“When we came back with Season 2, so many designers were lining up and wanting to be a part of it,” the show’s costume designer Eric Daman told Vanity Fair. “They wanted their stuff on either Blake or Leighton.”

16. IT SPAWNED ITS OWN CLOTHING LINE.

To capitalize on the show’s influence in the fashion world, Daman and designer Christine Cybelle (a.k.a. Charlotte Russe) created a Gossip Girl-inspired clothing line.

17. KRISTEN BELL PLAYED AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SERIES, BUT WAS NEVER CREDITED.

Though viewers had to watch all 121 episodes of Gossip Girl to learn the identity of the titular tattler, Kristen Bell provided the voice for “Gossip Girl” for all six seasons, without credit. And while she sort of hoped that the finale would have revealed that she was indeed “Gossip Girl” all along, that ending was not meant to be. “I’m sure that it would’ve been really cool had I got to play some vicious part and actually come out as Gossip Girl, but I think it was appropriate for one of the main cast members to have surfaced as Gossip Girl,” she told Perez Hilton.

Though she was a key part of the series, she didn’t learn GG’s true identity until the very end of the show—and she was surprised. “I don’t know that I ever forethought it being Dan,” she admitted. “That was a bit of a shocker!" (If it makes her feel any better, Badgley reportedly didn’t learn Gossip Girl’s identity until that scene was actually shot.)

18. JANUARY 26 IS "GOSSIP GIRL DAY" IN NEW YORK CITY.

© 2008 Warner Bros. Television

At least it was in 2012, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed January 26 “Gossip Girl Day” in celebration of the show’s 100th episode. “I don’t have a whole lot of time to follow what New York magazine has called ‘The Greatest Teen Drama of our time,’” Bloomberg said. “But I am interested in finding out who the real Gossip Girl is—Serena’s cousin, maybe? And I don’t see how Blair could marry Prince Lewis while she is clearly in love with Chuck, although she and Dan became pretty close when they interned at that fashion magazine. And I just wish that Nate and Vanessa had been able to work things out, I guess Nate was preoccupied with everything that was going on with his father and Jenny and, I mean, it was a tangled web, I guess Dan would have ended up making their relationship impossible anyway, but I’m just a casual fan.” 

Super-fans of the show can still take a Gossip Girl tour of New York City.

19. IVANKA TRUMP AND JARED KUSHNER MADE A CAMEO.

Over the full course of the series, plenty of familiar faces popped up, but two in particular seem kind of funny in retrospect: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner played themselves in a club scene. (Ivanka was apparently a huge fan of the series.) “They did it for the money,” a chuckling Schwartz told Vanity Fair.

20. IN AN ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE, SERENA IS A SERIAL KILLER.

In 2002, von Ziegesar published a bloody take on her famed book series with Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer, which she said she’d love to see adapted. "I took the original text of the first book and whenever I saw an opportunity, I layered in this story of Serena coming back from boarding school as this coldblooded psychopath, which, to me makes total sense,” von Ziegesar told Entertainment Weekly. “She’s sort of like the Ryan Gosling of Gossip Girl world. She has that deadpan style, doesn’t seem to have much personality, and she’s really gorgeous, but then underneath she has this kind of scary ability to kill people. So she’s murdered people up at boarding school. She’s always had this dark side and everyone is a little bit scared of her.”

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
8 Big Moving Mistakes—And How to Avoid Them
Original image
iStock

Your wine glasses are smashed to pieces, and your toiletries are nowhere to be found. No wonder moving day is the most stressful life event for 62 percent of adults, beating out divorce or a new job for 43 percent of people, according to a recent study by the energy company E.ON. Many times, however, the moving day stressors can be avoided. We’ve got the dirty moving deets straight from the pros so you can move in one piece.

1. THE MISTAKE: LABELING JUST THE SIDE OF THE BOX

Ben Soreff, a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing in Connecticut, says that when the boxes get stacked, you can’t see their labels—so you may spend hours at the new house searching for your toiletries or bed linens after a really long day of moving. Instead, label every side of the box, and you’ll be able to spot your belongings quickly.

2. THE MISTAKE: THROWING AWAY RANDOM CORDS AND ELECTRONICS

It can be tempting to throw away what appears to be a spare cord, but Annie Draddy, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby, a professional organizing company in New York, thinks you should fight the urge. Instead, put all the random chargers, cords and electronics in one box. Then, as you go through your home prepping for the move, you can look for the mates, and be sure that you’re only tossing random cords that don’t have a purpose anymore.

3. THE MISTAKE: PACKING THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED TO HAVE HANDY ON MOVING DAY

Everyone wants to be fully packed when their movers arrive, but everyone will also find that they need last-minute items on moving day. Michelle Hale, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby in New York, recommends creating and properly labeling a moving day box. “Ideally, this box should include a hammer, screwdrivers, scissors, box cutters, tape, duct tape, dust cloths, basic cleaning products, paper towels, glue, sticky notes and pens, snacks and trash bags,” she says. You might need a bunch of those items even right up to when the last box has been moved (we’re looking at you, snacks and tools), and you’ll also want easy access to them the second you get into your new pad. You should also pack a separate box for your overnight essentials for that first night, which should contain sheets, towels, and toiletries. “Basically, anything to make the nighttime and morning rituals as normal as possible,” Hale says. “And remember to label it appropriately, and flag it to the movers as important.”

4. THE MISTAKE: PACKING LAMPS WITH THE LIGHTBULBS STILL IN THEM

Lightbulbs break easily—you don't want to be unpacking and stab yourself with a piece of bulb shattered during the move. Lamps and other large items can be bubble-wrapped and placed into boxes, but you should remove all lightbulbs before packing the lamps, said Nicholas Boorom, logistics director at Everything But the House, an online estate sale marketplace. If you have lightbulb boxes handy—or even have room in your Christmas ornament box—pack them up and bring them along. Otherwise, toss them and start fresh in your new place.

5. THE MISTAKE: LOSING PARTS OF DISASSEMBLED FURNITURE

There's nothing worse than getting to your new home and attempting to reassemble your furniture, only to find that you're missing a piece. Mike Glanz, co-founder and CEO of HireAHelper, a company that offers hourly movers throughout the United States, suggests having a Ziplock bag nearby when you're disassembling furniture in anticipation of your move. Toss all of the nuts, bolts, washers, and flanges for that item into the bag, then duct tape the bag and its contents to the item for an easy and quick find when you’re ready to reassemble.

6. THE MISTAKE: PACKING HEAVY ITEMS INCORRECTLY

Dense, heavy items like books should be backed in small boxes so that carrying them is manageable, says Nimrod Sheinberg, vice president of sales at Oz Moving and Storage in New York. “Movers can’t handle the box if you can’t lift it,” he says. On that note, a dresser full of clothes is a dresser that's too heavy to move. Movers aren’t superheroes, and some will refuse to move a packed dresser, Sheinberg says. Empty everything before moving day.

7. THE MISTAKE: LEAVING EMPTY SPACES IN BOXES

Leave space in your box, and whatever you've packed in there will move in transit to your new place. Sheinberg recommends filling the spaces with packing material or newspaper.

8. THE MISTAKE: FORGETTING TO PREP YOUR PLANTS

Your plants can survive a move ... if you get them ready about three weeks before moving day, according to Atlas Van Lines Inc., a moving company based in Evansville, Indiana. About three weeks prior to the big day, move your plants into unbreakable pots. Two weeks before, prune your larger plants to make them easier to handle (but skip this step if you’ve got jade plants, aloe, cactus, or other ferns and succulents). Two days before, water your plants normally, but don’t overwater because your plant could freeze or get moldy (depending on the weather). Finally, wrap your large plants with a bed sheet or tissue paper on moving day. Put them in a snug box, and put paper around them in the box so they’re snug. Put air holes around the box so it can breathe, then label the boxes and mark them so they aren’t turned upside down.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios