State of Fair Food: A Sugar-Fried Whirl

By Judy Hevrdejs |  Tribune

State fairs have been a celebration of a state’s agricultural bounty and a competition for bragging rights among America’s pie bakers and quilt makers for more than 150 years. Fairs have evolved quite a bit, but food still plays a prominent role, at judges’ tables as well as the multitude of food stands and food trucks spread around the fairgrounds.

Many of the comestibles are similar (and fried) because some purveyors travel fair to fair. There’s often sweet corn (fresh from local harvests), a vareity of eats on a stick and the usual odd bits: Meat man parfaits? Deep-fried Twinkies? There are, of course, iconic items (at least according to fair officials we surveyed) that have been filling bellies for decades.

Illinois State Fair: A Vose corn dog washed down with a lemon shake-up. Aug. 12-21,Springfield;

Indiana State Fair: A specially seasoned, open-grill cooked Hoosier rib-eye steak sandwich. Aug. 5-21,Indianapolis;

Iowa State Fair: Pork but especially the inch-thick grilled loin chop on a stick (its bone). Aug. 11-21,Des Moines;

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula State Fair: A pasty, those classic pastry-wrapped meat and vegetable pie. Aug. 15-21, Escanaba;

Minnesota State Fair: Pronto Pup, like a corn dog but its batter is more pancake than corn, has been served since 1947. But in the land of 10,000 lakes, a walleye on a stick (introduced in 1995) is also worth tracking down. Aug. 25-Sept. 5, St. Paul;

Missouri State Fair: Plate-size cinnamon roll. Aug. 11-21, Sedalia;

Nebraska State Fair: Funnel cakes or corn dogs. Aug. 26-Sept. 5, Grand Island,

Ohio State Fair: Chocolate and peanut butter candy buckeye, classic or deep fried. Looks like a nut from Ohio’s state tree, the buckeye. July 27-Aug. 7, Columbus;

Wisconsin State Fair: Cream puffs, the longest continually selling item at the fair. Aug. 4-14, West Allis;,0,3798527.story