Fair. The Allegan County Fair to be exact. Home of cows, demolition derbies, harness racing, and all things fried. Where you know the fair is in town by the smell of horse poop and fried goodness. Where the drive down Park Drive leads to parking galore and ends at the giant rooster. For those growing up in these parts, the fair signals the official start of Fall.
As a teenager, I was a 4-Her. If my memory is correct, it was something about health, hands, heart, head. Cake decorating, arts and crafts, crocheting, and sewing classes led to a couple of best in shows, a handful 1st and 2nd ribbons, and years of general knowledge. Thanks to those wonderful years, I continue to enjoy sewing little projects, decorating my children’s birthday cakes, and general DIY crafts. The real excitement was filing into the 4-H building and searching for the prized ribbons.
Sure the rides and games are fun, but the people watching is where the real entertainment is. I witnessed a tramp stamp, “Rockstar” surrounded by colorful stars, so low that it should have read “Bumstar”. Did I mention that this was “star” was on a kiddie ride. So sorry my kids had to see that. The carnies. Always interesting. Usually a few quite scary. And once in a while, a nice one. I felt sorry for the carnie running the 25 cent color game. Not familiar? Put a quarter on a color and throw a ball into the ring. Fingers crossed that it lands on your color. Side note: I remember the good days when it was a dime and there were 8 colors, not 24. Back to the color game carnie. He had difficulty reading several of the colors. Silver, turquoise, and tangerine to name a few. Next time a student says that he/she wants to drop out and join the fair, I’ll remind them that reading is necessary, even for a carnie.
Being a small town foodie, the fair is my smorgasbord. First runner up for my fair food rundown – Steak tips served with sautéed onions, slow cooked mushrooms, all over smashed redskin potatoes – yes please! This year, the tips were dry. Very dry. Flavorful yes, but like flavored jerky chunks, not mouth-watering steak tips. The winner and my must go to food site is (drum roll please), the barbecue joint by the grand stand. Pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, ribs, smoked turkey legs, barrels of sauce, and smoked corn – whoa pull up the reins.
Good eats, all of it. My top 3 – pulled chicken with the cherry bbq sauce, smoked corn, close 3rd pulled pork. Get the smoked corn! Yes you will love it. My son wanted smoked corn before he wanted fries!
The smoker is puffing out hot smells all day and the booth is always packed. The oldest two choose pulled chicken over booths filled with hotdogs, corn dogs, or hamburgers! Not the usual fair fried food. So. Much. Better. I used to be a funnel cake, elephant ear gal, but recently converted to mini donut dippers. Fresh, made to order, and puffy little Os of goodness, worth waiting in line every time. Plus, the couple running the booth are some of the friendliest of the fair bunch. For a palette cleanser, I finish off my fair exploration with a frozen banana. Yes, a banana. The gentleman who runs the booth is super efficient, clean, and always sporting a smile. He takes a frozen banana, dips it in a big vat of melted chocolate, and rolls the sweet banana in sprinkles. Ever since I can remember, this man and his frozen bananas have been my fair must go to. For years. Until next year Mr. Banana man.
The fair is in town for a few more days. We went once. Too expensive. Too many temptations. The upside, my cravings will go on for a year. I am a local. Fall is Fair. Fair is Fall.