Going to the North Carolina State Fair each year is a long-time family tradition. For most of that time, a key goal of the trip has been to try as many of the new and unusual foods as possible. The challenge was always that eating more than a couple of them was both a challenge and a way to gain a ton of weight in a hurry. A few years back, I devised a strategy for tasting the weird foods and not gaining weight, too: eating only one (or at most two) bites of each. To make this plan work, you need either to be willing to throw out a lot of food or to have a group willing to join you in the quest for strange delights.
Fortunately, our State Fair group is willing to help me.
We always enter from the same gate, so I began with my traditional first food: a pretzel dog.
It was as warm, greasy, and delicious as always.
Sarah begins her feasting with a butter-and-salt pretzel from the same vendor, and she is always willing to let me have a bite.
Scott opted to start with a blooming onion, and he also let me try a piece.
Greasy and hot and tasty, oh yeah.
Another early dish was the fried cheese.
Hot and gooey and tasty, it was everything fried cheese should be.
Up to this point, we had been following tradition and eating dishes that, while definitely bad for you, were not really Fair food.
The fried Oreos, covered in powdered sugar, took us squarely into the land of unusual foods.
Though you're bound to wear the sugar if you try these, they are surprisingly good little rascals, with the strong Oreo flavor complemented by the dough and sugar.
Continuing in the vein of things you shouldn't eat more than once a year--and maybe not then--we went for the Krispy Kreme donut bacon cheese burger.
This fat and sugar bomb is tastier than you would expect--though I knew that before my first bite, because I've tried it before.
Next up was one of the few fails of the Fair foods: the fried Klondike bar.
Now, I like fried things (as you can tell), and I like a good Klondike bar from time to time, but this one didn't work because the bar turned completely to liquid before you could take a bite. Klondike bars are rarely frozen hard, but you might have to do just that to make this dish work.
This next one was just too sweet for me, but it worked for some: a Reese's peanut butter cup and something else (I think; I can't recall for sure) deep-fried and covered with sugar.
To be fair, those who enjoy peanut butter with their sweets did seem to like it.
After all of that sweet, a salty ham biscuit from one of the Methodist food halls was just the ticket.
Hey, wait, is that a juggling Elvis on a unicycle?
Duh. What else would it be?
Returning to food and sticking with savories, the sausage baguette was yummy and provided just the right amount of spice to warm your mouth without making you hurt.
Don't believe in artisanal baked whoopie pies?
Come to the Fair. They exist, and they are amazingly delicious.
Is that a bear chilling in a huge tire swing?
Again, duh, of course it is, though for all his size he is hard to spot in this photo. Watching him climb into the swing and steady it was a treat in itself.
Back on the midway, hot mini sugar donuts are a staple our group cannot resist.
Damn, that is a big watermelon!
That is also a freaky pumpkin.
I don't know what one would do with such a thing that it would be worth $900, but I'd love to know the story of anyone who bought it.
This cow, who was chilling while staring into a fan, his ears blown back and his eyes nearly shut, proved to be a surprise star of that part of the Fair.
Like a dog hanging his head out a car window, this cow was extremely cute.
We had to search high and low to find the deep-fried Cubano, but when we did,
it was delicious.
No trip to the State Fair can be complete without a simple cheese dog.
Sometime in the course of the night, we sampled some delicious N.C. State ice cream, but I forgot to take a photo of it.
In a final Fair tradition, Sarah, and now Ben and others, rode the swings.
My fear of heights, better in recent years but still present, made me happy to watch everyone's stuff from the ground.
We walked for four hours, and I ate almost nothing before the Fair, so the morning after tasting all of this, I weighed exactly what I had the previous day. I thus declare victory for this year's State Fair trip!