Dining A La King: Fair food will have helpings of bacon
Posted: 07/16/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marshall V. King
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Deep-fried Kool-Aid was one of the new items at the 2011 Elkhart County 4-H Fair. This year, more bacon is on the menu for midway food vendors.
Truth Photo By Marshall King
At this year's Elkhart County 4-H Fair, you can see the pigs that will become bacon, but you'll also be able to eat more of it.
At least three new items at the fair this year will feature bacon, which has been a huge food trend nationally for the last several years.
Pacifico, a professional food vendor with booths along what's known as “Food Row” on the Goshen fairgrounds, will offer a bacon corn dog near the main gate and a bacon-flavored elephant ear. Pence Concessions near the Ferris wheel will sell a bacon sundae, as well as deep-fried bubble gum and a cotton candy sundae, according to Tim Yoder, fair concessions director.
“We have some bacon stuff,” said Kristy Ambrosen, the fair's marketing manager. She said people have been asking about bacon items and vendors will be offering them.
Fair food comes fried, grilled and sugared.
For nine days at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, 78 booths will feed and serve drinks to thousands.
It'll be a feast for the tummy and for the senses that come into play before the food gets there.
Professionals who make a living off of selling fair food look for new ways to engage our senses. This year, Tom Hodson, whose family has been in the concession business for decades, will operate a Cajun food booth near the midway. Jay Rounds of Goshen will be involved in selling the red beans and rice, andouille sausage and Cajun shrimp that's charbroiled or fried.
“It's nice to come in with something that's not the same ol', same ol',” Hodson said.
Hodson feeds people at fairs and festivals across the United States. He's old-school and favors traditional things like the noodles they serve at the Eastern Star building at our fair. But he's seeing Americans seeking new flavors, more exciting dishes. “I think America's looking for a change,” he said.
Yoder is trying to get Ricky's Taqueria, the excellent Elkhart restaurant, on the fairgrounds, but it may not happen this year. Owner Jesus Rojas is getting a food truck, but it won't be ready for the fair. Ricky's would offer Mexican food in a different way than has been available at the fair, whether it's this year or next.
Yoder is excited about a giant doughnut made from scratch that will be offered near Gate G on the east side of the fairgrounds. The item has sold well at other fairs and festivals, he said. Tom Thumb mini doughnuts will be sold near the main gate and the 4-H Rabbit Club will have Rise & Roll doughnuts again, Yoder said.
Around 50 vendors will be selling food at the fair. About half are professionals who are on the prowl for the new thing that will spur sales and profits. Others are local non-profit groups whose members work hard to raise money for their causes. (I'll be working in the Goshen Noon Kiwanis Club booth, where steakburgers and sweet corn raise money for local scholarships, among other things.)
Most of the non-profits aren't offering new items this year, but some will have combo meals for kids or adults. The 4-H Saddle Club, whose booth is near the grandstand, will have baked oatmeal and will sell fresh fruit in a dish called a saddle bag.
The 4-H Dairy Feeder Club, which offered haystacks in its debut last year, will do so again, but will feature a breakfast haystack, according to Trent Hostetler, assistant leader of the club. The item will have scrambled eggs, potatoes, vegetables, cheese and sausage gravy and be sold just one day of the fair: Thursday, July 26, when the tractors roar down the track. The booth near the grandstand will sell the $6 breakfast haystack from 6 to 10 a.m., he said.
I'm not on the fairgrounds as much as when I covered the fair for The Elkhart Truth, but I'll be out there to volunteer and to eat. I'll head for the Dairy Bar soft ice cream, the pork chops, the Bounthanh's Asian food. There will likely be a lamb burger from the 4-H Lamb Club and some Greek food from Joe's Gyros too.
OK. My mouth is watering. Thinking of the foods we love at the fair do that to us.
You can find vegetables and salads. You can find stuff that isn't fried.
Pigging out isn't a good idea, whether it's bacon or anything else. Regularly eating fried foods is a bad idea too. But taking a bite of some deep-fried novelty won't kill you.
The nine days of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair will offer a mix of foods we don't get every day of the year. That's part of what makes the foods special and part of why we love fair food.
See you at the fair. If you say, “Hi,” I'll try not to respond with my mouth full.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, email@example.com, on Twitter or Instagram @hungrymarshall or via www.facebook.com/diningalaking.