Deep-Fried Everything: The Glorious Food Creations of a County Fair

Foods & DrinksFood

  • Author Michael Mettler
  • Published March 27, 2024
  • Word count 1,121

If you can fry it, you can fling it – at a county fair, that is. Fried food seems to be the unofficial mantra of county fairs across the nation where concessionaires delight in one-upping one another with the fattiest, most creative and questionable snacks imaginable. Fairs are celebrations of the best, the biggest and the gaudiest. The fastest barrel racer, the heftiest bull, the tallest sunflower, the largest belt buckle – all of these and more are on display and in competitions at your local fair. Over the past decade the exploration of what can be fried has exploded beyond corndogs, turkey legs and elephant ears to encompass items as benign as Twinkies, Oreos, bacon, and apple pie to the more adventurous caviar, beer and Caesar salad, to the ultimate fried food concoction – deep fried butter encased in a sweet pastry dough with a drizzle of raspberry syrup. My arteries are cringing just thinking about that last item.

In addition to the fried food frenzy common at fairs, these events are also highly regarded for their proclivity to provide most any food one can think of on a stick. This class of food is ideal for noshing on while walking amongst the carnies as you wait in line to Whack-a-Mole or ride the Zipper (where you hopefully will not revisit the potentially questionable food to you just shoved down your gullet). From tandoori chicken skewers, to macaroni and cheese, to cotton candy, to milk chocolate dipped jalapeños, vendors have figured out ways to present most items vertically.

“People love to be surprised and shocked when they head to the fair,” explained veteran fair food aficionado Joan Weinand. “Growing up in Minnesota, we had one of the largest fairs in the world, the Minnesota State Fair. The food options are truly wild each year. My favorite recent find was a Krispy Kreme BLT which featured close to a half of a pound of bacon, fresh tomatoes, Iceberg lettuce, mayo and a dash of Sriracha between two donuts. The strangest thing I ever ate there was a white chocolate dipped scorpion.”

Food booths at local fairs began popping up in the late 1800’s in the United States and featured a comparatively tame assortment of smoked meats, baked items and handmade candies. By the time the World’s Fair really started to take off in the United States in the early 1900’s items such as corn dogs, cotton candy and soda pop became standard fare for attendees. Over the past several decades whether out of adventure, insanity or perhaps boredom most anything and everything became fair game for re-imagination.

The Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days is no exception. This annual festival over Labor Day Weekend marks the end of a glorious summer season and the start of another school year, Friday night football games, and crisp fall evenings as the valley falls into a wintertime slumber. As the long warm days of summer begin to recede, people from all walks of life descend upon the fairgrounds on Orchard Street to see the canned goods and quilts their friends and neighbors made, local artists’ work, the livestock that local youth have raised and groomed for their 4-H projects, explore their children’s science projects, take in the rodeo, and break their otherwise strict Paleo diets for a weekend of gluttonous revelry.

Of course, there are plenty of non-fried options available at the fair each year that are equally fabled at these hometown festivals. Some of my favorites include fresh kettle corn popped in front of you on the midway, caramel apples dipped in crushed peanuts from Bright’s Candies booth in the Pavilion, oversized dill pickles from numerous vendors and reincarnations of the iconic Pepe’s Pizza from the Walla Walla Catholic Schools booth in the Community Center.

While the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days rarely changes too much from year-to-year (that really is the beauty of these small-town celebrations), the mix of vendors does ebb and flow. Local food trucks mingle casually with full-time festival food operators, candy makers and carnival workers pumping out gut-busting specialties.

Make a point to toss aside your diet plans and check out some of the bizarre foods at your next visit to a fair. Should you end up running across one of those chocolate covered scorpions and are at a loss as of where to start with it, take Joan’s advice and take as few bites as possible.

If you need to get your body eased into fair food season, we suggest trying to make one of the following to tease and tantalize your palate.



  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

  • ½ tsp. hot pepper sauce

  • ¾ tsp. cayenne pepper

  • ¼ tsp. seasoning salt

  • ¼ tsp. garlic power

  • 1 cup cornmeal

  • 2 ¼ cups flour

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper

  • 32 ounce jar of dill pickles

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 eggs, ¼ cup of the flour, buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, seasoning salt and garlic powder.

  2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, 2 cups flour, salt and ¾ teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Preheat oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 365 degrees F.

  4. Dip drained pickles into milk mixture and then dredge them in the flour mixture. Deep-fry them until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 12 servings.



  • 10 ice pop sticks

  • 5 very ripe bananas, peeled and halved crosswise

  • 16 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1 tbsp. butter

  • 10 tbsp. flaked coconut

  • ½ cup chopped peanuts


  1. Insert one ice pop stick into the cut end of each banana. Place the bananas on a wax paper covered baking sheet and freeze until the bananas are frozen, about 2 hours.

  2. Melt the chocolate the and butter in a microwave-safe glass bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring after each melting, for 1 to 3 minutes (varies per microwave)

  3. Dip the frozen bananas in the melted chocolate, spooning the chocolate over the banana to cover it completely. Roll in the peanuts and coconut to cover. Place the dipped bananas back on the wax paper-covered baking sheet and freeze until the chocolate is firm.

Makes 10 servings.


Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo – August 19th – 23rd, 2014

1500 S. Oak Street, Kennewick, WA 99337 (509) 222-3749

Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days – August 27th – 31st, 2014.

363 Orchard Street, Walla Walla, WA 99362 (509) 527-3247

Lewiston Roundup – September 3rd – 6th, 2014

2100 Tammany Creek Road, Lewiston, ID 83501 (208) 746-6324

Columbia County Fair – September 5th – 7th, 2014

102 Fairgrounds Lane, Dayton, WA 99328

(509) 382-4609

Pendleton Round-Up – September 10th – 13th, 2014

1205 SW Court Street, Pendleton, OR 97801 (541) 276-2553

Michael Mettler is a brand manager and designer based in Walla Walla, Washington serving clients across the globe in numerous industries.

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