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Cows, carnival rides, giant pumpkins, and pig races -- what would Labor Day weekend be without the Michigan State Fair, happening today through Monday in Novi? 

New this year and kicking off tonight will be the Thursday Night Blast --  a fireworks display above the carnival midway courtesy of the Tractor Supply Co. that will erupt at dusk, roughly 9 p.m. -- weather permitting -- and run about a half hour. 

Other novel additions to look forward to include the Moovin' Thru the Midway 5-K race at 8 a.m.Sunday which, because of the course it takes, should be a ton of fun. 

"It's going to be particularly exciting because people will actually be running through the carnival midway and animal barn, right by the exhibitors" said State Fair Executive Director Steve Masters. "So even within the world of 5-K races, this is going to be a really unique event."

Online registration is $35 per runner through Saturday, and $40 on-site Sunday, if slots are still available. 

Of course, all your traditional State Fair faves will be returning as well, including the Detroit Shrine Circus, with its awesome big cats, aerialists, the famous liberty horses and, of course, wacky Shrine clowns.

Daily shows start at noon, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (On Monday, the 5 p.m. performance will be the last.)

It goes without saying that the fair wouldn't be complete without rockin' music, and the State Fair Superstar competition. 

This year's 14 Superstar semi-finalists will take the main stage Friday and Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Judges will narrow the competition down to five Superstar finalists for Sunday afternoon and evening performances.

The Grand Prize winner, who goes home with with a cool $2,000, will headline on the main stage late Monday afternoon, with the runner-up and Honorable Mention providing opening sets.

But back to those racing pigs. If you've never experienced the thrill of sprinting hogs, be sure to check out the daily races starting at 11:30 a.m., and happening every two hours thereafter. Last race Thursday-Sunday will be at 7:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. Monday. 

Wandering through the Livestock Pavilion is, unquestionably, a State Fair essential. Be sure to chat up farmers who congregate from all over Michigan to show off their prize animals.

In an amusing mash-up new this year, in addition to other contests there will be a Supreme of Supremes competition -- an overall best-of-show livestock award in which various species will duke it out for the honor of being the best overall beast at the fair. 

And after a one-year hiatus in 2018, the Equestrian Pavilion will return this year. The horse enthusiast among your kids will want to check out the classes and competitions, which will include English (Hunt and Saddle Seat), Western Equitation and pleasure classes, as well as Barrel Racing and Reining.

Finally, cap off your State Fair experience with a nighttime visit to the Midway. Ferris wheel ride, anyone? 

Or muster your courage and try out the new Himalaya or Zipper rides.

All things considered, it's probably a good idea to go on the latter -- in which the car you're in spins in the opposite direction of the overall ride -- only if you haven't eaten recently.

Is the Zipper the sort of thrill that could cause some, as it were, to toss their cookies?

"Well," said Masters, "I sure would, but a lot of people just love the ride."

mhodges@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6021 

Twitter: @ mhodgesartguy 

Michigan State Fair 2019

10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thurs.-Sun; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.

Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River, Novi 

Admission to Fair: $30 - Ultimate Wristband (includes fair entry, unlimited carnival rides and circus)

Fair-only admission: $8 - adults, $6 - kids 2-11 -- carnival rides and circus extra

michiganstatefairllc.com/home 

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