State fair season is beginning and, for many, that means one thing: food. Lots and lots of food, often deep fried, on a stick or deep fried and on a stick.
Can you say fried pineapple on a stick? Or pork chop on a stick? Or, even more perplexing, salad on a stick? Then there’s deep-fried Milky Way bar on a stick, meatball on a stick, cheesecake on a stick, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a stick and don’t forget about the fried pickle on a stick.
It seems like everything at the fair just tastes better on a stick.
Fair-goers from Iowa to Texas to Minnesota marvel each year at the various concoctions, returning to old favorites and trying new treats.
This year at the 158th Wisconsin State Fair, for instance, all the hype is about chocolate-covered bacon.
It has been a runaway hit, selling 7,000 slices — unexpectedly — in the first day of the fair Thursday. Teams now are working through the night to ensure that there is enough bacon for the fair with nearly 100,000 slices expected to be sold by the end of the 10-day event.
“You get a little bit of the sweet and you get a little bit of the saltiness. So you mix those two loves together and that’s where chocolate bacon came from,” said Jessica Deeg of The Machine Shed restaurant in Pewaukee, Wis., the maker of the treat. “It’s a craze around here and it’s awesome.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, it is served on a stick.
So what are the top foods at this year’s fairs? ABC News scoured the country and came up with our own list of top favorites. Feel free to add your favorites to the comment section below.
1. Caramel Apples
2. Belgian Waffle on a stick
3. Deep-Fried Oreo Cookies
4. Corn Dogs
5. Frozen Coffee On a Stick
6. Cotton Candy
7. Funnel Cake
8. Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
9. Deep-Fried Norwegian Banana Split
10. Open-Faced Grilled Spam Sandwich
Bonny Wolf, food commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and author of “Talking with My Mouth Full,” practically grew up at the Minnesota State Fair. Today, even though she lives out of state, she still plans her vacations around the fair.
“It is a day when you just eat junk food,” Wolf said. “It is so a part of going to the fair that I think seems excusable. Any time there is something called a fair or a street event, there’s always food. I think that’s why people go. It’s part of the experience. It’s food you don’t eat any other time”
Something about all these fried foods, served in fun manners, brings out the child in everybody.
“Everybody knows you shouldn’t eat fried cheese curds but, boy, are they good,” Wolf said.
The food is supposed to put you in touch with the agricultural history of the state. But often, she said, it just tastes good.
In Minnesota, the fair each year honors the dairy industry with a dairy princess. The newly-crowned princess gets her head sculpted out of butter on the spot. She sits in a special freezer that rotates and has a window for the crowd to watch the sculpture being carved.
“You have this princess in a tiara and a ski parka,” Wolf said.
But that’s really just a sideshow to the food.
“You go to the fair and you just eat junk until you feel sick,” Wolf said. “At the Minnesota State Fair, they have Pepto-Bismol on a stick.”
Barb Schaller, 64, has been competing in state fair competitions, mostly in canning, since 1981. She called the Minnesota State Fair the “best 12 days of summer.” Her favorite food: vegetables on a skewer.
“It’s the one time of the year when you get to eat certain things,” Schaller said. “I don’t fix corn dogs in my house, ever, and my husband goes to the state fair just so he can have a corn dog.
“The other thing my husband likes is the little mini donuts,” she added. “That’s the only time of the year he eats them, which is probably a good thing since most of the food at the state fair can be put in the food category of fat, grease and sugar.”
Why Eat When You Can Cook?
Fran McLellan owns the Shrimp Shack, selling grilled shrimp and fried shrimp, both — you guessed it — served on stick.
“When people come, they like anything that’s on a stick or deep fried,” McLellan said. “Those are usually big sellers. It’s just a tradition we have here.”
The Minnesota shrimp man said that, often, when you eat out, food is overpriced. But not at the fair, which adds to the appeal. (He sells his shrimp on a stick for $4 a pop, and two for $7.)
Marjorie Johnson doesn’t eat the food as much as enter in baking competitions. Her first one was in 1974. Since then, she has won more than 2,500 ribbons, including more than 1,000 blue ribbons. She has written a book, Blue Ribbon Baking with Marjorie, about all her prize-winning cookies, cakes and rolls. She even once baked Jay Leno a birthday cake.
“Once you enter and get a ribbon, you are really hooked,” Johnson said. “It’s so exciting and wonderful when you win a ribbon”
Johnson is more into baking than the junk food. But her kids used to always get the candy floss when at the fair and she is always surprised by what new calorie-laden meal is put on a stick.
“I guess people just love to eat,” she said. “The smells are wonderful. Oh, all those wonderful smells. … You get hungry walking around and seeing all the exhibits.”