One of the good things about the Midwest is our county fair culture. Most countries, especially in the rural areas always have one and it brings out the best in people. People are proud to share whatever they do. It might be woodworking, food, craft, or livestock. Many of them even have a Demolition Derby. The best of the best of each of these will probably end up at the State Fair.
Growing up, I live in the one county in the area that did not have a county fair for some reason. We did start to have Trails West festival when I was in high school. However, being in 4-H, I ended up going to a lot of the other county fairs for different things. We would go because my mother loved to see what other people in 4-H clubs was doing.
However, one of the highlights is the eats you can find in the stands at the county fair when it is going on. Of course, all the dietary people would have a heart attack at the calories that this stuff has but people do not come to the fair to be training for Friday Night Fights. Plus, the midwest is not known for small people after all.
What types of food can be had at the county fairs
You can find about every type of food possible there. People who have a food truck business go from one fair to the next selling their food. The following is my three favorite but you can add to the list without much trouble.
This was one of my favorites and for some reason, I could never get them at home. We would try and it never worked. The only places that I could get it was at the county fair (and Worlds of Fun). I would always look forward to it. It was always a wait to get one as well. I do not think I was the only one that loved them to put it lightly.
A funnel cake is basically the old dutch Drechderkuche dish that got modernized with the powered sugar around the turn of the 20th century. It became popular in the fairs in the 1950s or so. It got its’ name from the way the batter is poured into the oil.
You can still find them at about every fair that goes on in America for about $5 or so and you will just sit down somewhere and pick apart the pancake like dough and eat it piece by piece. It comes highly recommended and it is worth the price. However, not the best for those with diabetes.
Of the iconic food for the county fair culture would be the common corn dog. It has been at the center of the food area for many decades. It is just a hot dog on a stick that is cooked in pancake like batter. However, it is widely popular for some reason. I can remember having dozens of these as a kid when we would go to fairs all over Missouri.
The corn dog was patented in 1929 by Germans living in Texas and said of the food item, “clean, wholesome and tasty refreshment.” It made its’ first appearance at a fair during the 1938 Texas State Fair. It has been popular ever since that day too. You can even buy frozen version of them in your local grocer today.
At the county fair near you, you can expect to pay around $2 for a corn dog from the food truck and they can serve them out pretty quick so the line should move really fast. You can eat this on the run to another ride at the carnival area.
My personal favorite has to be the kettle corn. This stuff is wildly popular in the fairs and people will line up all day every day to get some. They sell it in small bags and they even have a five foot tall bag. I have bought a few of them at the Missouri State Fair to get my fix! It could be said that kettle corn is like crack for people but that would not be nice but you get the idea that this is addictive!
It was introduced around the time that America was becoming a nation and it was some dutch immigrants that made it. It requires a fire, a dutch oven, sugar, corn and a lot of stirring. It was too much work to make it large scale back then. It would be developed bit by bit until it became what we see today is basically all computerized.
You can find these sellers at every county fair, I promise you. In fact, there will normally be a few of them and they will all be busy selling the bags as fast as they can make them. They normally sell from between $5 and $35 for the huge bag. I would not eat the biggest one by yourself. I am speaking from experience!
Embrace the fair culture
Make sure you try something that you can’t normal have while at the fairs and enjoy the best of whatever place you are in. It is an amazing experience to have and one that I cherish from my childhood.
However, these fairs are more than just about the food. It is about the people. Meet some interesting people. See some of what they are proud of. Enjoy the races. Many of them even have live concerts. The state fairs normally have huge country music shows as the county fair culture is centered around rural life.
For the rest of us, it might seem a little redneck at these events but it is time to see the country through someone’s else eyes and tap into our own “inner redneck.” The truth is that we have something that we can love from these festival.
They are easily found about anywhere in the country from late May to early September. There is always one of them going somewhere.