It’s that time of year again! When you splurge on delicacies you either would otherwise dare not consume – or those that simply cannot be found anywhere else. The NC State Fair (October 11-21) prides itself on the diversity of food choices offered, and they are always looking for new options for hungry fairgoers. It’s the attendees, though, who decide what becomes a local favorite. Everyone has a food they just have to savor before fair season is over, and fairgoers are always excited about what the new trend in food might be.

From the foot long corndogs, to roasted corn on the cob dredged in hot butter, giant turkey legs, fried cheese curds, alligator bites, funnel cakes with chocolate and powdered sugar, boiled peanuts, Wisconsin cheese sticks, Krispy Kreme burgers, and maple flavored cotton candy – many will pardon the calories and look forward to this “good eatin’” event every year.

The theme of this year’s NC State Fair is “Bumper Crop of Fun.” Bumper crop is a slang term used to describe an exceptional harvest; appropriately, our fair is consistently ranked among the top 25 in North America. Its unique food and flavors have a long history of shaping the way people experience the event. Awards have been given for the production of top notch agricultural products since the very first fair in 1853, and the first booths selling food appeared on the Midway around 1900. Today’s patron wants everything from exotic, to wacky, to deep fried. Seventy percent of fairgoers surveyed chose eating as one of the main reasons for attending; stalls of food vendors call out to customers as the new sideshow is food.
2011 innovations included Kool-Aid pickles, lemon sticks, red velvet and pumpkin spice funnel cakes (with cream cheese drizzle, no less), novelty cupcakes, black bean and sweet potato burritos, crepes and Belgian waffles with pizza toppings, Polish kielbasa, Carolina barbeque, and all things deep fried – Kool-Aid, brownies, bubblegum, chicken pot pies, Oreos, and butter.

So just how does someone decide to deep fry an Oreo? That’s all up to the vendor. Some say an idea comes to mind and they think, “I could fry that.” Other times it’s trial and error. Some spend months creating a concept for a new food and perfecting the process until they can produce it on a large scale.
Former Holly Springs resident Tom Campbell prefers the standard caramel covered apple, without nuts please. “They’re flat on top because that’s where the caramel oozed as the apples cooled on a big sheet of wax paper,” he said. “I try to find the one that has a particularly large pool of caramel ‘cap’ as that’s the best part!”
Elaine Klonicki of Raleigh enjoys the hot mini donuts. “I love watching the whole process – the double row of tiny donuts skimming along on top of the oil, the automatic flip partway through, and them being scooped out one at a time,” she said. A little shake in a bag with cinnamon and sugar, and they’re in your hands. “Just the right size to pop in your mouth!”
The fried Snickers bar, consisting of the candy rolled in funnel cake batter, deep fried, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, is a hit with Creedmoor’s Jenny Hobgood. “It’s ooey gooey goodness on a stick! Probably more like a heart attack on a stick, but the fair just comes once a year, so I can justify it,” she said. Hobgood attends with her dad, and they plan their route based upon which exhibits they’d like to see – and which foods they’d like to eat between stops.
Cary’s Julie Jarvis says that she and her friends go to the Fair each year with the goal of eating their way across the grounds and back again. “Our top priority is starting with the tempura veggies so we know we have enough room to finish every bite. You get to pick the veggies you like, and they come out all hot and toasty brown with enough for two to share,” said Jarvis. Another must have is the Howling Cow ice cream, first served in 1978. “You won’t find a better deal than this fabulous, locally made NC State dessert.”

Beyond the bright lights of the Midway, the NC State Fair focuses on celebrating our state’s agricultural heritage. It’s eleven days of educational exhibits, competitions, games, concerts, livestock, heart-stopping rides, and all the chow you can handle while spinning upside down.
Visit them online for more, and check out the Food Finder to locate your favorite nosh. This page will also guide you to iPhone and Android apps featuring the latest information on 2012 events, rides and cuisine. What are your favorite eats?
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