Fair food: priceless

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson
With a fist full of curly fries, Alexis Kinley, 3, and big brother Bailey Kinley, 8, enjoy a mid-morning trip to the fair.

Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers


Armed with an empty stomach, 20 bucks, a notepad, and a cheap pair of boots, I rode into the Curry County Fair in my dusty red Ford Escort on Tuesday to sample the fare.

I made my way to the food court where the unofficial slogan is “If we can get it on a stick, we’ll serve it!”

Yes, it’s fair time folks. That can only mean one thing. It’s going to rain. But wait, it also means something else. It’s OK, for this week only, to toss out the traditional rules of dining out and splurge. After all, the fair only comes ones a year and it’s not the time or place to go searching for meal deals or health food.

Fair time is one of those rare occasions when you can forget about calories and costs, and even etiquette as you walk around, with no guilt or shame, tearing your teeth into a turkey leg like Conan the Barbarian.

I started off looking for bargains, but I quickly realized that there was such a variety of food. Then I realized two other things. People will line up for sugar and grease alone. And sugar and grease look so appealing on a stick. There’s sausage on a stick, a fried cheese thing on a stick, roasted corn on a stick, fried Twinkies on a stick, and 12-inch corn dogs on sticks.

According to one fair-goer, Paige Smith, these foot-long corn dogs on a stick may actually fill up a teenager. And even better, Smith, an avid knitter, said, “the corn dog stick becomes a knitting needle, so save your money on knitting needles and buy corn dogs.”

One of the funnel cake vendors who I talked to, Pat Cummings of Fritch, Texas, said, “You don’t count calories during the fair. You count them afterward.”

Although there are three or four other vendors pushing funnel cakes to sugar-happy fair-goers, Cummings doesn’t worry about competition. “You just put up your signs and when it gets crowded, usually everybody gets their share of customers,” he said.

For the $2 and under delicacies, a good bargain may be the heavenly burritos at the Our Lady of Guadalupe and San Jose Mission booth. Here, you may not find the image of the Virgin Mary on a flour tortilla, but you ill find the women of Our Lady of Guadalupe rolling up flour tortillas with beans and beef as fast as they can.

“We have people who wait until fair time and then come and order five or six dozen of our burritos and freeze them,” Anna Cerda said.

Another heavenly treat is the Kingswood Burger, a popular menu item at the Kingswood United Methodist Church booth. One of the chefs, Rob Roark, said it’s service with a smile as he grills up the popular burgers with their signature green chile and grilled onions.

The Kingswood Burgers cost $3.50, and with $1 for a side of fries and $1.25 for bottled drinks, this burger combo cost Stella Parker of the Clovis Evening Lions $5.75. “Not bad,” Parker said.

Only a few steps away from this booth, are some not-so-traditional fair fare. Mrs. Mya, as she simply calls herself, is selling an original creation she calls Southwest Caviar. This appetizer features black-eyed peas, white corn, pinto beans, apple cider, vinegar, canola oil, splenda, green peppers and red onions. Served with Fritos scoop chips on the side, this exotic dish goes for $3.75.

Of course there are the traditional fair favorites: Barbecue, popcorn, snow cones, cotton candy and get this, caramel apple slices, which are caramel apple wannabees that go easy on the dentures. And if a plain ole weenie is not good enough for you, Irma Hildebrand of The Classy Caboose recommends one of her hot Cajun corn dogs or polish sausages.

Courtney Bell, 14, of Clovis said you can’t go wrong with a heaping helping of cowboy taters drenched in ketchup and salt for $4 a plate. She calls this a meal in itself.
So as I wrapped up my mission at the fair, I finally resigned myself to the fact that it’s not about pinching pennies here.
As I looked over at Smith and her two grandchildren, Alexis and Bailey Kinley, I thought of the Mastercard commercial. Two small lemonades, $4; two giant corn dogs, $8; and one large order of curly fries, $4.

Cost of burps and smiles on kids’ faces at the Curry County Fair … priceless.