By Mary Ann Lienhart Cross
County Extension Director
For those of us whom have a passion for county fairs, fair is just one of the best times of the year. There are many of us who have this passion and there are many parts to the fair that makes fair so special for us, it is really a high. Many of you grew up having 4-H Fairs being a part of your life here in Indiana or another state or county. I credit my parents with creating this passion in me as when I was eight months old my parents took me to the Lake County Fair and I think that is where it all began, my father was also a 4-H member and really enjoyed fairs.
So now to making the most of your visit to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair when it comes to eating. The last couple of years I have written my column on fair food and this year is no exception. I know that many people come to the fair just to eat fair food. You and I know for a fact that you don’t come to a fair to eat healthy. But I will say if you would want to do this you can; there are some healthy eating choices and also remember healthy eating has to do with portion size. This is why I highly recommend sharing what you eat so you can do lots of tasting.
This year the 4-H Poultry Club is a new choice on famous food row and they are offering nine choices, starting with a “Little Hen”, “Waffle Chicken Sandwich”, “Sweet Ending CBC” and many in between. There are chicken nuggets, fried chicken, and even a dessert. My tradition of starting my 4-H Fair food experiences with a pork burger may be on the verge of being broken.
Remember my personal fair food plan is to share food, sharing means you get to taste more foods. The real bonus when you eat at the 4-H and service clubs you are helping to invest back into our community. I am going to try to write about most of the foods offered by the 4-H and service clubs this isn’t easy but I am going to give it a good lick-of-the-fingers try.
I am starting at the front of our food row which continues to a welcoming sign for all of you. I am starting on Locust Street with the Rabbit Club, they have some of the greenest and healthiest food that you will find. They offer rabbit/bunny BBQ, rabbit sausage with gravy on biscuits green salads and more. The rabbit meat for their booth is donated from many of their members’ meat rabbits that don’t meet show standards. A favorite of many fair attendees is a visit to the “Pork Producers” for a pork burger, chop with bone or butterfly cut or a ham sandwich.
Once you have had your pork chop you can walk across the street to the “Dairy Bar” and have all kinds of ice cream delights. When it comes to breakfast there are two or three choices. The only air-conditioned food choice is at the Eastern Star, and they have some good biscuits and gravy. After breakfast they offer home cooked meals and sandwiches. So now we are ready for just walking across the street to the Cattlemen Association and having a rib eye steak sandwich. Eating at the fair is often about meat as next is 4-H Lamb Club and they are known for their “Lemon Shake Up” which they have exclusives on. They are also known for lamb burgers and lamb chops. Next to them is Crystal Valley Exchange Club, which offers the popular taco and their famous taco salad and also a walking taco.
Now on the west side of the street to a shared building of the Goshen Noon Kiwanis, 4-H Goat Club, and PSI Iota XI Sorority. The main draw is the grilled one pound burger and the sweet corn. The 4-H Goat Club features Mexican food, and frozen beverages and yogurt has returned to the stand. The sorority has fresh locally made pizza. Now we can walk to the other side of the street and have some great fresh grilled pancakes from Elkhart County Exchange club. Staying on that side we head to the 4-H saddle club for Buffalo Burgers and wraps. The 4-H Poultry Club food stand is right along there. Right on the corner is Kappa Kappa Kappa and they have fresh pie and ice cream.
When you turn the corner you are now on Rotary Boulevard and walk a block or so and come to the 4-H Dairy Feeder Club. They’re preparing Amish Haystacks. On Tractor Pull Thursday, they are preparing a breakfast haystack. Both of these food items are foods that you want to share. You are now next to the dairy bar with ice cream delights and the most economical food on the fairgrounds; their grilled cheese sandwich. Across the road and next to the grandstands is the 4-H Junior Leaders and they have the best popcorn at the fair and this year Ben’s Pretzels. If you cross the road and walk down just a little on the opposite side is the 4-H Saddle club and they have fruit, hamburgers, bratwurst and a variety of fried foods.
I hope I have more than whetted your appetite so you come to the 4-H fair, visit the 4-H exhibits in the Elkhart County Community Center, view all of the open class exhibits in the Home & Family Arts building, open class horticulture in Ag Hall, connect with the commercial exhibitors, and eat great food. There are also commercial food vendors and a favorite of many are Nelson’s and also the Chinese food down by the midway. I do hope to see you at the fair and I know you will enjoy the food!