If you love a fair, the 1988 Utah State Fair is the place to be.

The 132nd edition of the state exhibition begins Thursday for an 11-day run.Fair workers, judges, grounds keepers and others put the finishing touches on exhibits and displays before the fair opening at 3 p.m. Thursday. Admission will be free until 5:30 p.m. the opening day.

With new indoor and outdoor lighting to brighten once-dreary areas, freshly painted buildings and newly arranged staging, fair officials predict the fair will provide an entertaining and educational view of the best the state has to offer.

"We hope the fair is something for everyone. It's entertainment. It's agriculture and livestock. It's a place where people can display their homemade products and perhaps win a blue ribbon. It's a place where thousands of people can display their talents. We hope it's a place where people can come with their families and get a taste of everything Utah has to offer," said Judy Terry, fair coordinator.

Terry, who has worked at the fair 21 years, said Fair Director Jackie Nokes, the State Fair Board and others have worked hard to create departments in which everyone, whether they're from the city or the country, can have a place to display things they have made, grown or raised.

Fair workers said Tuesday they didn't have exact figures on the number of exhibits or entries in the fair, but the number should be up this year, particularly in crafts and home arts.

Even though many fair buildings are about 100 years old, some of the structures have been equipped with air conditioning. Utah businesses volunteered some material and labor.

Nokes, who was appointed to her post in July 1987, enthusiastically conducted a motorized tour around the fairgrounds, where restoration-remodeling work is proceeding on Exhibit Building No. 1. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building is slated for completion next year.

Attractive new signs direct visitors to "Milker's Way," "Piggy Parlor," "Billy Goat Gables," "Bunny Bungalow," "Bull Pen" and "Moo Mecca."

Grounds have been made clean and beautiful with more flower beds and a creatively arranged vegetable and flower garden just west of the fair administration building.

Duane Hatch, Salt Lake County extension agent, and others were spading and hauling in additional materials Tuesday for the demonstration garden, where visitors can gain ideas on how ornamental and edible plants and flowers can be blended in a 12-foot-wide and 100-foot-long circular plot.

Reshaped for this year's fair, the garden contains 22 vegetables, including purple Brussels sprouts, red-leafed lollo rosso lettuce, bush beans and peas, and about a dozen different kinds of flowers, including calendula, zinnias, lavatera, gazinias and strawflowers.

Nokes pointed with pride to the livestock buildings, which have been been painted green and white to tie in with previous construction, and to such fair sites as "Pig Pavilion." The latter is now located on newly laid concrete and over a newly installed drainage system.

"For a change the State Board of Health loves us. For a long time we were the battered child of the state. Now we are in demand. People want us," Nokes exclaimed, referring to fairgrounds improvements.

Fair public relations director Terry Corbell said a dazzling array of country stars, including Eddie Rabbit, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Charlie Daniels Band, Tanya Tucker, and the Bellamy Brothers, have been lined up for the fair.

A barbershop-style sing-a-long, featuring the Beehive Statesmen, is scheduled for 6:30 and 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15.

An additional charge beyond the regular fair admission price ($4 for adults; $2 for senior citizens and kids ages 6 to 16) is made for grandstand concerts. But there is no extra charge for rock and reggae, Jamaican-sound music, concerts in the bandstand. Children 5 and under are admitted free to the fair.

The bandstand is now located on the west end of the fairgrounds near the Jordan River Parkway, where an opera singer, street musicians and other entertainers will perform.

Another highlight of the fair will be an open horse show, a Professional Cowboys Association Rodeo (latter at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8-10), and a wide variety of events to please horse lovers.

Appaloosa horse judging will be at 8 a.m. Sept. 9, American paint horse judging, 8 a.m. Sept. 10, and American quarter horse judging at 8 a.m. Sept. 11. Many other horse events will continue throughout the fair.

Thursday's fair opening will feature a musical tour of the fairgrounds from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. It will feature a Utah National Guard color guard and the Taylorsville High School Madrigals and Marching Band. Opening ceremonies, at which many state, county and other officials will gather, are scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on the bandstand stage.

B & B Amusements is erecting an award-winning carnival, which will be located on the grass in the center of the fairgrounds. The carnival will feature a new "Global Wheel," which spins to about 100 feet in the air, and many other rides. Thousands of dollars have been spent on new uniforms to clothe carnival operators, fair officials said.