Moink balls on a stick, fried alligator on a stick, fried chocolate cupcakes on a stick and stuffed cucumbers — fair food is consistently one of the top reasons people go to the State Fair, and each year there are new temptations for fairgoers to try when the fair begins on Friday.
“Last year, fair food ranked third in reasons why people attend the State Fair,” Facilities Director Jaime Parr said. “This year, we're going all out with traditional and new items.”
She said each year they invite vendors to try new things. Sometimes they are things vendors discover or see at another fair, and sometimes State Fair staff will look for a vendor that can bring in something the staff has seen at a different fair.
“The stuffed cucumbers are one of those things I've been searching for for a couple of years,” Parr said. She explained that she had seen the peeled, hollowed-out cucumbers filled with chicken, tuna or seafood salad at another fair and had been trying to find a vendor who could bring them to the Nebraska State Fair.
Two years ago, a vendor tried to duplicate the recipe, but it was cut up in a boat and didn't look the same. Parr said she discovered it takes a very specialized tool. This year, a new vendor to the fair, Family Fun Food in Food Pod 1 on the south end of the Marketplace, will have the stuffed cucumbers.
“People will be carrying around an upright cucumber” she said. “That ought to catch your attention and make you wonder what they are eating and where they got it.”
Six of the almost 70 food vendors are new to the Nebraska State Fair, while the others have been with the fair since the Lincoln years.
“Some have added a specific item to their menu, trying to entice the fair guests to try something new, exciting, different,” Parr said.
She said the fair staff work with all of their vendors, and last year they gave each vendor a bit of a critique, offering tips of how they may improve their stands, both in looks and menus.
“There is a good variety this year,” Parr said. “I'm so excited about the new foods at this year's fair.”
Parr said a lot of the food vendors will be in the five food pods in the Marketplace just in front of the animal barns, but there also are food vendors in the East Entertainment Area, the Family Fun Zone and the Midway.
She noted there are a few “hidden gems” when it comes to food vendors, such as Papa Tom's, which sells items such as prime ribs sandwiches and brisket nachos behind the Cattle Barn.
He serves mostly vendors or those who are at the fair to show animals, but anyone can go back and purchase items.
JAK Concessions, doing business as Porky's, in the East Entertainment Area has some of the most unusual fair foods you'll find, such as the pancake burger, frog legs, duck fat fries and Rocky Mountain oysters.
“They have a lot of fried foods that we haven't had before,” Parr said, adding that a large talking pig welcomes you to the booth.
There also will be moink balls from Pig in a Bag in Food Pod 5 in front of the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center. Parr described the moink balls (a combination of moo and oink) as bacon-wrapped meatballs covered with a barbecue glaze on a stick.
Other new foods include fried alligator on a stick at Food Pod 5, strawberry or caramel apple funnel cakes at Food Pod 2, fried chocolate cupcakes and fried peanut butter dipped in chocolate at Food Pod 3, Frosted Flakes chicken on a stick at Food Pod 1 and fresh strawberries on a stick at Food Pod 8 in the East Entertainment Area.
“We talk to people regularly that attend the fair each day primarily to graze through the food pods and take in as much as they can during the 11-day event,” Parr said, adding that there will be plenty of the traditional favorites for those who are waiting for their favorite corndog or funnel cakes.
The Nebraska State Fair runs Aug. 23 through Sept. 2.