Fun Foods from Local Fairs
Whirling rides and games of chance are great, but there's nothing quite like the quirky, offbeat, and delicious foods you'll find at the fair. County and state fairs started out as a way to bring local and regional farmers together to network, swap stories, and show off. While you'll still probably find plenty of cattle competitions and giant veggie contests at the fair today, let's be honest — one huge attraction is the mouthwatering selection of fair foods. Fans of these foods often return year after year for that special taste that might only be found during the span of the fair. From wacky and wild to downright delicious, we've rounded up some of the fun foods you might find at your local fair.
Flavorful Sundaes and Parfaits
Ice cream is nice, but it can't compare to the flavor-packed seafood sundae served up at the Coastal Carolina Fair and the South Carolina State Fair. Cajun-seasoned, marinated shrimp top creamy grits studded with bacon and cheese inside a sundae cup with optional extras like grilled onions, peppers, or garlic-butter mushrooms. At the Virginia State Fair, you could snag another Southern classic when you order a pork parfait — smoky, sweet pulled pork smothering mashed potatoes with a generous drizzle of mouthwatering BBQ sauce.
Funnel cakes are pretty standard for fairs, right? Not if you're at the North Georgia State Fair. Here you can order up an amazing take on a fair classic. Slathered in Bavarian cream, topped with chocolate, smothered in apples, or made with red velvet cake, there's nothing boring about the options here. If you're at the North Carolina State Fair, consider sampling a Cheerwine funnel cake, which uses the iconic soda in the batter and the icing. Of course, if you crave a classic funnel cake, you might be better off checking out the iconic Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cake at the Great Allentown Fair in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Funnel cakes aren't the only option if you want some fried dough at the South Carolina Fair. Here, you can order a delicacy that makes ordinary cinnamon rolls look like diet food in comparison. Deep fried and placed on a stick, these crisp, flavorful cinnamon-roll pops are among the popular options from Carousel Foods. Cinnamon rolls not your thing? Consider the deep-fried Oreos or Reese's cups instead. Fried Kool-Aid, a specialty at the North Georgia State Fair, brings a little color and childhood nostalgia into the mix too. Hush puppies (fried donut holes) are made with a hefty dose of Kool-Aid in the batter, fried to perfection, and dusted with powdered sugar.
The Big Papa
For fair-goers in search of spectacular savory dishes at the North Georgia State Fair, it's tough to top The Big Papa. Be sure to bring your appetite though. This huge sandwich includes a double bacon cheeseburger topped with pulled pork, fries, ranch dressing, and jalapeno-BBQ sauce. If you can eat the whole thing, including the toasted bun, in less than 5 minutes, you'll get a free T-shirt as a prize.
Burgers and More
It'd be easy to go to the North Carolina State Fair and stick with tried-and-true BBQ. But for a taste of what many call "the new North Carolina," you might try a jerk pork wrap, with its spicy pork topped with cool mango salsa in a flour tortilla. Or if burgers are your thing, consider the arepa burger, a hefty beef patty topped with tomato, onions, fried potato sticks, pink sauce, and an herb-cilantro green sauce in a grilled maize bun. At the South Carolina State Fair you choose from meaty treats like parmesan-crusted burgers and quesadilla burgers to satisfy your hunger.
All Things Waffle
Make sure you save some room for a waffle. While Pennsylvania's largest street fair, the Ephrata Fair, is all about a sweet take with waffles and ice cream, a few Southern fairs have decidedly savory takes on things. Case in point: the waffle dog at the North Georgia State fair (it's even served on a stick for your convenience), the spicy Sriracha chicken and waffle sliders at the South Carolina State Fair, and the crack-n-cheese in a waffle cone (BBQ turkey, mac and cheese, slaw, and cracklins in a waffle cone) at the North Carolina State Fair.
Food Contests Galore
Pie eating, hot dog contests, and other forms of competitive eating are among the starring attractions at many local fairs and festivals. Did you ever wonder where the practice originated? It turns out this might have had its roots in 17th-century England, where tales of Nicholas Wood, the "Great Eater of Kent" could eat a lamb shank, 60 eggs, and several pies in one sitting. But it really started becoming popular in the mid-1800s, with pie-eating contests becoming a staple in American culture by 1900. Today you might see competitive eaters doing their thing on sports channels like ESPN or while you're browsing the booths at your local fair.