Despite the persistent heat, it feels like we've made a subtle shift toward fall. Tailgating, crockpot meals, pumpkin lattes and Halloween costumes aren't far away, and neither is the state fair.

The Arizona State Fair will run Oct. 14 through Nov. 6, but it's not too early to start planning for one of autumn's biggest events.

Reserved-seat tickets go on sale Saturday for the fair's headlining concerts. The lineup includes country music acts Trace Adkins, The Band Perry and Darius Rucker; rockers Bret Michaels, Billy Idol, 3 Doors Down and Judas Priest; and hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg. General admission to the concerts is free with fair admission, but a limited number of reserved seats (closer to the stage) are available for an extra $15-$20 each. Get them through Ticketmaster, (800) 745-3000 or ticketmaster.com, or by visiting the Veterans Memorial Coliseum box office at 1826 W. McDowell Road in Phoenix.

It's also time to consider doing more than simply attending the fair. How about entering something?

For past stories, I've talked with ordinary people who make, bake, grow, arrange or decorate things in the hopes of earning a ribbon, prizes or bragging rights. What's stood out in our conversations is that these people aren't experts; in some cases, they're acting on a family tradition or trying something novel with their kids.

You could bake a cake, plant a container garden, snap a photograph, build a model airplane, carve a Jack-o-lantern or even create a celebrity-lookalike scarecrow. An amateur winemaker contest, Arizona memorabilia showcase, fashion design contest and cupcake challenge are possibilities, too. Entry fees run $1-$8 per entry.

Postmark deadlines for the Student Art, Fine Art and Creative Crafts categories have passed, but the fair's Dionna Dallas tells me that if you bring your entry to the fairgrounds on the drop-off day for your designated category, you can still enter. You'll just have to pay a little bit extra for on-site registration - in some cases, $2 instead of $1.

Find complete details, including entry categories, rules and deadlines, at www.azstatefair.com/exhibitors/exhibitors.aspx and www.facebook.com/azsf.entries, or call the fair's Entry Office at (602) 257-7142. Even if you don't win, exhibitors get four 50-percent-off admission passes to the fair. General fair info is at (602) 252-6771 or www.azstatefair.com.

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