This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fair food

Several weeks ago there was a piece in the Rensselaer Republican asking people what they liked best about the fair. Some people answered that the best thing about the fair is fair food. Thinking about that this week, I noticed that there were a lot of food vendors at the fair, and in a bit of obsessive-compulsiveness, I decided to try to find them all.

At the south end in the horse area is the Trails End Cafe, also known as the Horse Arena Cafe or Restaurant. It is the only eatery for the south side campgrounds and for those watching the equestrian events, and the only one in a permanent building with sit-down dining. It opens early and closes early, with hours from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. I asked who ran it, and was told that it is run by the Fair Board.

Coming north through the carnival area we find two booths that seem to be part of the carnival, one a hot-dog stand and the other selling funnel cakes. I really liked the lettering on the funnel cake booth.
Leaving the carnival area, we enter the center of fair food. First is a Pop Warner booth, which not only sells food but also is running a dunk tank. Next is an ice cream mobile unit run by Good Dips from Indianapolis, then a hot dog stand run by Bosley's. A sign identifies it as being from Roselawn.
Next to it is a large booth run by the Calvary Assembly of God from Demotte. The workers here put in long hours, because when I have been out there really early in the morning, they have been setting up for the day. It is one of the few places open for breakfast.
Continuing north we pass a mobile unit run by L&J Concessions, then a giro stand. I asked the guy at the giro stand where he was from, and he said he travels from event to event. Many of those with mobile units are probably doing the same thing. Next is a place selling shaved ice--does that count as an eatery? After that you can buy corn for $2.00 from a crudely-done booth.
At the end of the road is a C&S Country Treats booth selling lemon shake ups and other things. (What is a lemon shake up?) If we turn to the left (west), we find Little Kat Concessions selling jumbo elephant ears and fried veggies from their mobile unit at the entrance to the commercial building. If we enter the commercial building, we quickly hit the Farm Bureau space from which they sell delicious shakes. (You might have to wait in line for one.)

If instead we had continued with a zig and zag to the north toward the community building, we encounter first an ice cream truck and then Grannies Goodies from DeMotte selling elephant ears.
On the other side of the passageway, Martin's from Rensselaer is selling grilled tenderloins.
East of Martins in the REMC building, the local sorority Psi Iota Xi is selling freshly baked cookies, and someone is also selling cotton candy. Outside of the REMC building is a mobile unit of G&C Concessions.

If we had turned right when we got the corner with the lemon-shake-up stand, we would pass the Rensselaer Lion's Club selling their $2.50 meal deal--a hot dog, chips, and a drink.
Next to them the Rensselaer Rotary Club is selling their porkburgers, continuing a long, long tradition.

Going east from the Rotary booth, we cross a service road leading to the grandstand area, At the corner of the main plaza (for lack of a better word) and this road is the the tent for Yesteryear's Meats & Catering, which is from DeMotte.
Next to it is The Nut Hut. Immediately to the east of the Nut Hut is a tent with Ayda's Mexican food. (You can see it to the left in the picture below.) They are selling the same menu that they sell in Rensselaer, but charging a dollar more than they do in town. (It is still cheap.) They probably want to cover the charge for the space and the rental for the tent.
Now we pass several non-food displays. As we approach the sheep barn, we find Clauss Bakery, but you probably should visit it early because it was not open the evening I was doing this survey.
Finally, next to the show arena is a snack booth that says 4H Leaders above its food window.
Did I miss any? How many did I list?

It sure would be fun to have the time and money to sample each of these places and write food reviews. It might take most of the week. If you have any strong reactions to the food you have eaten at the fair and would like to comment, either praising or damning any of the food vendors, feel free to comment.

(By the way, I can be bought. If any of the food vendors reads this blog and wants me to praise their food, offer me a free sample.)

Update: I recognized the owner of L&J Concessions as a former SJC student from about eight years ago. In addition to the food stand that travels from event to event during the summer, he also runs a lawn service and a trailer washing business. (I did not really understand the trailer washing stuff.) It is good to see hard work and entrepreneurship.


Old Hunter said...

The last picture is you see the two kids hugging their mom's legs, wishing (i'm assuming) they wouldn't leave... Oh it reminds me of my 2 kids! We need to find out who this is and make sure she copies this! Hehehe

Sheila said...

We went to the fair last night. My husband got a steak burger from Yesteryears...he liked it. I got a PB&J at Grannies Goodies (I am a vegetarian - my husband didn't let me live this one down "You got a PB&J at the fair!?"). I also had corn on the cob at the booth you have pictured. Sunday, I went and got a Lemon Shake-up. It's basically water, lemons, and sugar...shaken. You should try one! I got Psi Iota Xi fair cookies both times I visited. Fair cookies rock!

30-year-refugee said...

my basis of comparison is a bit different, but it was still fun to see what life is like at the jasper county fair. i went to it a few times back in my day, but i don't remember much about it.

while the major counties in the twin cities area have county fairs, you don't hear much about them. i think the fairs are a bigger deal in the rural/outstate counties. i don't think the food at MN county fairs is drastically different than at IN fairs. although one thing that seems to pop up at fairs around here, and is a huge enterprise at the MN state fair, is cheese curds, specifically deep fried. the MN state fair has a huge booth churning them out by the truckload. they're fresh curds, battered and deep fried. they'll take years off your life, but they're tasty.

the state fair prides itself on having unique foods, and every major form of media must do a "what's the new food at the fair this year" story. it gets a little nauseating, as i eat very little of the fair food, and for the past few years i have worked 10 of the 12 days of the fair, selling jewelry. i bring sandwiches most days, and on the days i treat myself to a meal, i tend to go to a church diner for a traditional meal. (there are a few of them on the state fair grounds.) the prices are reasonable compared to what the deep fried foods sell for.

there's obviously a huge variety of foods at a state fair, and in MN there's some obsession with serving stuff on a stick. not just corn dogs, (which are allegedly different than pronto pups,) but anything else they can think of. there's some sort of spaghetti and meat ball concoction on a stick (i think it's in wrapped in some sort of batter and deep fried on the outside.) they serve s'mores on a stick, which aren't warm, so it kind of defeats the purpose of eating a s'more. somebody serves pork chops on a stick. and i'm sure the deep fried candy bars are served on a stick.

there's a gator stand serving gator in some form. ostrich burgers to be had, as well. the summer after i graduated from college i ended up working at the fried green tomato booth, which was new that year, so people were lined up for them all day every day. i timed a person in line one afternoon while i was working the fryers, and the wait was at least 20 minutes, even with some people bailing out of the line.

a guy i work with is co-owner of one of the two mini-donut concessions. i'm not sure if his is tom thumb or tiny tim, i never can remember, but i know where his booth is, as i get a free bag on my way home. i don't get the fascination, but it's a huge enterprise.

so are sweet martha's cookies, or whatever they're called. they're just chocolate chip cookies, but they're freshly baked and sold in small, overpriced ice cream pails with lids, so you can take a bunch home with you. that stand does a ridiculous volume.

the french fry booth sells fries in various portion sizes, including huge buckets. huge! and there are two stands on the fairgrounds.

i am not a health nut, but pigging out on deep fried food does not appeal to me, yet i hear many people talk about how they love going to the state fair for the food. overpriced deep friend food....yummy!

like i noted, there's plenty of real food to be had if you want it, but i'm content to have the same boring sandwich most days. i'm there to make money, not spend it.

Desert Survivor said...

Your post makes me hungry! What a nice assortment of food booths.

I'm not surprised you can be bought!