Many times I’ve heard my friend Debra shout those words, as we made our way through some sort of festival or county fair, searching for something deep-fried, cheesy, or maybe even both.  And, with the Altamont Fair opening tomorrow, I thought it might be time to discuss “fair food” – fried dough, nachos, gyros, and something-on-a-stick – and all of the memories that it conjures.

When I was growing up, the Orange County Fair (in Middletown, NY) was a big part of my life – my dad is a dairy farmer, and always had cows and calves to show at the fair every summer.  It was a real family affair – me, my sister, uncles, grandfather, and my dad all showed up days before the fair opened to the public, “fitting” the cows for the show (this involved pressure-washers, wooden-handled stiff brushes, baby powder, and a case of Right Guard antiperspirant – don’t ask, because no one ever told me what it was for).  Come show day, we all dressed in the uniform that my dad insisted we wear – red polo shirts and white pants.  I know, white pants in a cow barn makes ZERO sense, but you can’t reason with my dad. 

One time, a full-grown nerly 1500-pound cow that I was showing stepped on my right foot just before I led her into the ring.  I can still feel the pain.

Being at the fair was a lot of fun (well, except for the cow that nearly broke my instep) – my sister and I felt like we were in the middle of everything!  The rides were a short walk away, the Midway next to that, and food concessions as far as the eye could see.  My dad would occasionally stuff a buck or two  in our little hands and send us to get him a fresh-squeezed lemonade (the stand was right next to the barn), and we’d beg him for extra money so we could get one too.   The 4H barn was home to many farm-family dinners (I forget who the cattle show organizers were, but they put them on), and they had the infamous “Dairy Bar” where you could get ice-cold milk (yuck), homemade ice cream, and extra-thick milkshakes.

The Orange County Fair was also home to a killer ice-cream cone treat – Bob Maxwell’s Walk-Away Sundae (“Dipped in Chocolate — Rolled in Nuts”).  Mr. Maxwell ran a ton of different concessions throughout the fairgrounds, and as I got older, many of my high school friends worked at his stands during the run of the fair.  I always wanted to work there, too, but I don’t know why.

There were the ubiquitous sausage & peppers stands, nestled almost comfortably next to the “See the Giant Maneating Alligator” attraction.  Fried dough, pizza, shish-kebabs, steak sandwiches, fresh-cut French Fries.  It was all there, just waiting for me to walk right up and place my order.

But, I don’t recall Mom and Dad letting us venture outside the cattle barn to enjoy any of those delectable treats.  We would beg and plead, but ultimately the answer was no.  I guess I’m probably blocking out the memory of Mom actually letting us get a Walk-Away Sundae or fried dough (she is most definitely not the Wicked Witch of the East), but I don’t have any active memory of actually eating any “fair food” while at the OC Fair.  Perhaps it was an issue of money, but maybe it was also one of safety.  There were lots of carnies lingering about, after all.

I think I’ve wandered far from my original purpose in writing this post- I got carried away!   I pose these question to you, readers:

  1. What kind of fair food do you enjoy?  Is it the same stuff you enjoyed as a kid?
  2. Have you ever eaten anything “on a stick”? 
  3. Did you know that The Orange County, CA fair has a stand that offers chocolate-covered bacon on a stick?
At Marini's candy shop at the Boardwalk amusement park in Santa Cruz, Calif
At Marini's candy shop at the Boardwalk amusement park in Santa Cruz, CA