46 State Fairs and What Makes Them Special

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

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


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. 

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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