Thursday, October 20, 2011

The State Fair and a shout out to Sarah

This post is long and full of pictures. Click on any image to see a much larger, higher-resolution version of it.

Monday night, a group of us made our traditional annual trip to the North Carolina State Fair.

I'm in it for the food and the weirdness, and mostly the food. The goal is to try as many odd Fair dishes as you can handle. This year, I decided on a new algorithm: I'd buy anything that looked interesting, take a bite, and then share it with the rest of the group. One dish, one bite, move on.

Others in our group, which to my great pleasure included Scott taking a few hours off from studying chemistry, had their own approaches, but I mostly stuck to mine. (Okay, I ate a couple of bites of a few things, but until the ice cream, I was doing well. More on that later.)

First up was Scott's pretzel dog on a stick, which he nicely let me try.

Wow, was it tasty, the perfect blend of pretzel and dog.

Gina needed me to hold her salty pretzel, so Scott and I exacted holding fees of a bite each. It was warm and chewy and salty, exactly as it should be.

We ate things as we passed them, which meant that this red velvet funnel cake with cream cheese icing hit our stomachs next. It was amazingly sweet, the sort of sweet that would make your teeth hurt, so it was fun only for a bite or two. (Kyle, you would loved it and eaten it all.)

I know what you're thinking: is that all the fried food you've got?

Why, no, it's not.

Yeah, fried macaroni and cheese bites. These little rascals are cheesy hot goodness personified. I restricted myself to a third of one; much food was still to come.

Next up was meat: a half-pound pure beef hot dog from a local guy who makes it himself. Five of us shared it, so we each got only a bite or two, but man, was it satisfying.

That's mustard, not cheese on it. We certainly didn't want to overdo anything.

Every year for a long time now, Scott and I have gone into the bear trailer to see the bears. I know it's silly, but it's our tradition, and we enjoy it--and I really like doing it with him. So, in we went. Dave and Jo joined us.

Boy, am I glad I did, because I've never seen anything quite like this before.

That is a lot of head on the man's lap. He and the bears were catching a snooze, and everyone looked mighty happy.

Well, maybe not everyone.

This bear grabbed the woman's shirt with its teeth, pulled her next to the man and down into a seated position, then went around her and put its head in her lap. No way was it going to let those other bears have all the naps.

After some time with the poultry, we aimed ourselves at the building of giant fruits and veggies. Along the way, though, we had to fortify ourselves with an assortment of vegetables of our own.

All fried, of course. It is the Fair.

Pickles count as a vegetable, right?

Okay, okay, I promised giants, and giants you shall have. Such as this watermelon.

And this pumpkin.

In the same building were the Brahman cows, whose briefcase folds are the stuff of a famous Wikipedia entry.

Next up for us were visits to some craft areas, so Scott decided to fortify himself with a giant turkey leg.

I, of course, demanded a bite as tax, and damn, was it good.

While walking through one of the craft buildings, we came upon it: the base of the Hot Dog Throne of Doom.

Yes, one day it will be mine.

But not today.

From the crafts to the gardens, where Scott showed his flat affect while posing as a flower.

At this point, our hearty crew had gone whole minutes without eating, so naturally we had to make a pilgrimmage from the gardens to one of the Fair's greatest attractions: the N.C. State ice cream stand.

Cherry vanilla is my poison. I dug into it so quickly that I almost forgot to photograph it. Fortunately, I did remember.

As we headed to the next (and last) craft building, one way on the other side of the Fair, we wandered by a stand selling this glob of greasy goodness.

Damn right, that's a fried cheeseburger.

What, you don't believe me? You question what is really inside that mound of fry.

Fine. Take a gander inside.

Yup, meat and cheese, baby, meat and cheese.

While wandering the competitive craft area, we came upon this remarkable piece of work by our friend, Merrie Burnett.

All of us agreed: Merrie definitely should have won a ribbon.

On the way out, we had to stop at Kimmy's Kupcakes, which serves cupcakes that resemble all sorts of foods.

Which one did we choose to share?

As if you had to ask.

On the way out, I moved the car to a good position and stayed to watch the fireworks. My iPhone's camera, which I used for all of these pictures, wasn't really up to the job of capturing a sky awash in color, but I ended up liking a few of the shots.

This one is recognizable, just so you know that I'm telling the truth about the fireworks.

This one, on the other hand, was just odd enough to capture my interest, even though it did no justice to what we saw.

The murkiness of this last shot somehow charmed me. I could stare at it a long time without being bored.

The only thing that could have made the Fair better was having Sarah there. I'm happy she's in Italy and having a great semester abroad, but as much as I always miss her, I miss her more at these family traditions. (If you're not reading her blog, by the way, you are missing out.)

The Fair is always a wild night, which of course puts me in mind of this song.

When Sarah and Scott were little, I'd play this loud in my office as they ran in circles around the room and I tried (not very hard) to catch them. I'd usually miss, and they'd run away screaming in mock fear and triumph. Even as I did it, I knew it was magic, and I loved it. I still miss doing this with them.

So, Sarah, when you're feeling homesick, play this video, think of the Fair, think of us, think of running around my office, and know that I am always only a song away, always there to catch you, always a dad who loves his girl.


Dan Campbell said...


I always enjoy these posts about the Fair.

Still wishing you the best with the tumor. *Fingers crossed*

Mark said...

Thanks, Dan.

J. Griffin Barber said...

Looks like a lot of food-fun. Hotdog Throne of DOOooooM!

Can't wait to see you next week.

Anonymous said...

Not just fried cheeseburger--fried cheeseburger on a stick. Awesome.--Toni

Mark said...

I know. Right!?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

A friend saw your post and searched for the pretzel hotdogs on Friday night without success. I'm headed over tomorrow and MUST have one. Can you tell me where you guys found them?


PS - MUST as in pregnancy craving dangerous foodie on the edge MUST have them :)

Mark said...

Hi, Anonymous,

I don't remember the gate number, but if you can find the pig races, stare at them from the walkway, then turn left and go to the last food booth on the right. It's a pretzel place that has the pretzel hot dogs. They are wonderful! I hope you find them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you!!

Found the pretzel dogs, scored a deep-fried reeses cup, hit the ice cream and cider and rounded it off with a surprisingly delicious elephant ear. The only thing we missed out on was a personal favorite of mine - orangaide... they were out of oranges ;)

Have you ever tried the deep fried wisconsin cheese? It looked like it had potential (especially the jalapeno cheddar), but we decided not to risk $7.50 on merely potential deliciousness.

Seriously, thanks again for the pretzel dog location - there is no way we would have found that booth without you!!


Mark said...

You're most welcome, Laura. I have tried the fried Wisconsin cheese, and though overpriced--like everything at the Fair--it was quite tasty.


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