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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Let’s Go To The Fair

Thursday, September 9, 2010 @ 12:09 PM

128The feature this week is going to be a bit different, but straight out of pop culture nonetheless.  With the leaves turning and Fall ever so subtly beating on our doors, I am reminded of just what an extremely busy but great summer it was; and what says summer more than the fair…the county fair at that. 

Now I will be honest, I have actually never really attended a fair, state or county for that matter.  I may have when I was younger and just not remember, but fairs have really never fallen on my radar screen.  In fact, I lived in a state that boasts one of the largest and most famous state fairs in the country and I never even attended.  I am not trying to be judgmental, It’s just something I was not overly exposed to and thus never developed the desire to go. In other words, fairs were not a yearly “must go to” occurrence for my family when I was growing up.  My husband, on the other hand…now that’s a different story. He comes from a long line of fair-goers and grew up going to the county fairs in Indiana every summer, and now that we live back in his home town, I knew my first fair experience was just around the corner. Evidently they are known for such things up here (being the agriculture industry and all), so it must be that I was never supposed to experience a “real” fair until now. So living back in Elkhart, IN, I got the chance to experience what he’d been talking about… the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

Adam had always made mention that the Elkhart County 4-H Fair is one of the largest county fairs in the entire country (2nd to be exact) and it is an event! Honestly, because I didn’t get the phenomenon until we moved here, I didn’t really think much of it; and I wasn’t until we got here and it was soon approaching that I saw that going to the country fair was kind of a big deal and seemed to be the “thing” to go and do.  I will admit that I was both scared and intrigued all at the same time, and with good reason.  I mean…this fair is the 2nd largest of its kind and is unlike any others I can imagine. It brings in over 300,000 people over just 9 days, and this year drove in record numbers, with folks lined up all day waiting to see Lady Antebellum perform, which I’m sad to say we didn’t get to see. 🙁 However, we did happen to go on the night of the tractor pull, and let’s just say that you might be surprised at the turnout! I have not seen that many people stuffed into an area and grandstands in a long time…and to watch tractors and monster trucks no less. Who knew?:).

127But tractors and rides aren’t why we wanted to go. Being that this is a display of agriculture at its peak, one of the things the 4-H fair is known for is the food…and lots of it!  Now they have your typical fried everything, and food trailers all over the grounds, but I’ll get to that.  Where they really stand out is each 4-H group represented at the fair as their own “house” or paddock where they serve up all kinds of delicious meals, with fresh from the farm (or stable) ingredients; and any local will tell you that is the place to eat. After perusing the general scene and scoping out the variety of options, we settled on the pork house (a big hit each year) and opted to just get sandwiches, because we knew a bunch of other food would be in our future. So I got the pulled pork and Adam chose the double pork burger w/ cheese.

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Attractive…I know, but it was messy and delicious all at the same time. 

After our mini dinner, we decided to walk around the rest of the fair and see what else might be in store.  There is a lot going on at the fair from rides to games to food to commercial products, and all of the animal stables/pens…let’s just say it’s hard to focus on one thing at a time.  We continued to walk around and eventually got sucked in by the fried Oreos. It did not take them much to twist my arm, especially since I had always wanted to try one, but although they were pretty good, they were nothing as spectacular as I had envisioned in my head.  Next year I will get the snickers, because that oozey chocolate has to be even better!

Continuing on, my lovely hubby loves to play games, even though he knows the odds are against him, but he was determined to win me this giant stuffed dog I thought was cute. Well…$40 later and I don’t know how many basketballs shot, he finally won me Kevin, and although he’s kind of a piece of crap, I couldn’t have been happier…

125I tried to convince Adam to go on some rides with me, but alas he would not…except the Ferris Wheel, that was the one exception.  I mean, you have to do the Ferris Wheel at the fair!   Even Kevin enjoyed the ride! 

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After our ride, which gave us a beautiful view right at sunset, we got sucked in by this tight-rope walking ladder game.  We both gave it our best 3 shots, but were unsuccessful. However, it was pretty hilarious watching us try…

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Following our crash landing into that mat, we started to think about the last culinary treats we wanted. Dessert was a given, which I’ll tell you about soon, but the other was the giant fried mozzarella on a stick from one of the food trailers I mentioned earlier. Let’s just say the locals know what they’re talking about, because we couldn’t even get through 2 bites…not good.

Still, we each had room for one final “treat.” I had seen these people carrying around these giant homemade ice cream cups from the Dairy Shack all night and I knew that is what I wanted.  Adam also knew what he was getting and had been the whole night. I also knew what he wanted since he and his family had not stopped talking about them since we began discussing going to the fair.  Well…there are these mini donuts by the bag full and they seem to be all the rage from everyone I talk to about the fair. Everyone always says, "Did you get the mini donuts?" They are definitely a big deal; and I must admit now that they truly were…especially when dipped in my ice cream. :)  Hey, you only go to the fair once a year, so go big or go home is my motto!  But honestly, these donuts are REALLY REALLY GOOD! They are small, but the perfect amount of chewiness and softness; and they come right out of the oven, so they are really warm. Finally, they are covered in cinnamon sugar, so it is truly hard to stop at just one.  I’d say our dessert was the perfect ending to a wonderful date night at the fair.  

SIGNATURE DISH: In this case, there is not one thing in particular, but rather everything under the sun that you could possibly think of.  It is a fair, so your typical fried everything fair food is available. However, what I thought was so special was the specific 4-H booths that serve up fresh, tasty, and local food; and you can also pretty much find anything you might be looking for from dairy to meat to veggies. Also, the mini donuts seem to be unique and a big hit! 🙂

TASTE:  Except for the mozzarella stick, the taste was fantastic, and that includes both fried fair food and 4-H meat alike.  True, the pork was far superior being that it was fresh, cooked perfectly, and seasoned wonderfully.  Also, the sauce they use was sweet, but not overly so and added the perfect amount of flavor.  And if you dip your sandwich in mustard, even better!  Again, excluding the cheese stick, all of the fried items we had were also very good.  Unfortunately, the mozzarella was just not gooey enough, but rather a breaded hunk of cheese, which I did not enjoy.  Finally, the ice cream was so fresh and creamy, and I would eat it daily if I could! Adam mentioned that it is from the local dairy farmers, and you can tell with the freshness.  It along with the donuts, Outta this World!  Thank goodness the fair ONLY comes around once a year or I would be the size of house!

AMBIANCE: I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this element.  Although you do encounter a WIDE (emphasis on wide ;)) variety of folks and it is very crowded most nights, there was something so quaint and old fashioned about the whole thing.  I enjoyed watching the families and locals just enjoying the scene and it almost felt like time stopped and all of the craziness in the world didn’t matter.  Instead, I was there just enjoying an evening with my husband having fun.

PRICE: This is hard to gauge due to the way things work at a fair.  You pay an entrance fee, but then anything else you want to eat, play, ride, etc. costs more.  And when you have a husband who spends $40 to win a stuffed dog…well yeah, the evening can get a little pricey.  But if we are talking about just the cost of the basics, it was very reasonable.  The parking was free and it cost us $16 total to get in. Our main meal was less than $20 and the total for all the food was maybe $60 total.  Really, for an entire evening of fun it was not crazy and really worth it in my opinion, but maybe we ought ask Adam. 😉

SERVICE: We had excellent service from everyone we encountered and they were all so happy to be there.  Being that you are dealing with everyone from volunteers to food stand works to carnies, you get a good mix of people. Still, everyone was genuinely nice and helpful, which is always appreciated.

So although not one of our typical features, I wanted to give you a taste of something I’d consider “popular culture,” especially due to its national size.  And funny enough, as “metropolitan” as I try to be, sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy an evening with no fuss or frills.  So with that… I give the Elkhart County 4-H Fair 3 1/2 Little Piggies!

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One Response to “Let’s Go To The Fair”

  1. […] related excursions) that are also featured in popular culture. From Harry Potter to the good ol’ County Fair, our excursions have run the gamut. While some of our excursions are more focused around food than […]

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