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There’s no food like State Fair food

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013, at 7:20 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Sep. 7, 2013, at 10:25 a.m.

In case fans of the Kansas State Fair’s always fascinating food selection are keeping score, here’s the 2013 breakdown:

Items starring bacon: six.

Items impaled on a stick: 12.

Items not intended for deep frying that are deep fried anyway: 39.

“Wizard of Oz”-themed food trucks featuring almost all of the above: one.

When the Kansas State Fair opens Friday, it’ll feature so many food offerings, listing them would take 13 pages filled with very tiny type.

Among the delicacies will be tame favorites, such as pizza, ice cream, enchiladas, chicken and noodles and the all-time State Fair classic, the Pronto Pup.

But the best thing about fair food is all the weird ways vendors find to serve it, such as maple bacon funnel cakes, deep-fried jalapeno Twinkies and bologna and bacon pies.

“It’s exciting for me to see how everyone reacts to the food,” said Sue Stoecklein, the fair’s director of commercial exhibits, who selects the food vendors from year to year. “When I get my nails done, it’s the first question I get. Even before they ask me, ‘Is Toby Keith sold out?’ they ask me, ‘What food is coming?’”

(Toby Keith is not sold out.)

Another addition to this year’s fair food offerings is a new food truck with a uniquely Kansas motif.

Russ Silvey, a long-time Kansas State Fair food vendor who has several spots throughout the fairgrounds, has just launched a food truck called No Taste Like Home.

The truck, run by his partner Annie Sanchez, has been dramatically airbrushed with the faces of characters from “The Wizard of Oz” and has been out and about in Hutchinson serving “comfort food with a twist” for the past couple of weeks. It’ll be parked at the fair near the Information Booth for the duration, then will return to service on the streets of Hutchinson.

Among the items fairgoers will find in the food truck is “picnic on a stick,” a kabob of sorts that features pieces of chicken, potato and pickle impaled, coated in onion ring batter and deep fried. It’ll also serve one of Sanchez’s specialties: lemonade made from lemons that have just been grilled, giving the drink a bit of a smoky quality.

“I make it from scratch,” Sanchez said. “Everyone absolutely loves it.”

Funnel cakes also are a big deal this year, and vendors are putting all sorts of flavorings in them, Stoecklein said. One is mixing fresh strawberries into the batter and topping the cake with a cream cheese glaze. One funnel cake will be flavored like Dutch apple pie with cream cheese and caramel frosting. There also are red velvet, chocolate and birthday cake flavors, and on Sunday – a day sponsored by Kansas State University – Westmoreland Concessions on Pride of Kansas Avenue will serve purple funnel cakes and purple lemonade.

Also on the weird food list this year: deep-fried macaroni and cheese with bacon at the Carousel Concessions on Fort Riley Boulevard; maple bacon snickerdoodles at Wicked Cookies on Fort Riley Boulevard; and calamari steaks on a stick from Midstates Cookers on Grandstand Avenue.

Stoecklein and her crew have made some changes to the directory of food that it publishes online. The guide separates the food offerings by type of food – burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc. – and indicates which vendors are selling those items. This year, the guide has new categories for breakfast items, fried foods and bacon-centric foods. Attendees can find the list online by going to www.kansasstatefair.com and clicking on “commercial vendors,” then “2013 Kansas State Fair directories.” Or they can pick up printed food lists at the gates and at the Information Center.

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