Elkhart County 4-H Fair has more than just fried foods

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Wow, has the weather been great or has it been great? It would be wonderful to have cool, sunshiny weather with just a light rain from midnight to five to settle the dust for our Elkhart County 4-H fair. As you know, the weather is always an issue when it comes to fair time — too hot is not good, chilly is not good either, except for the livestock, and too much rain is a huge problem.

There is energy in our office as many pre-fair activities have begun. For many of us, it is county 4-H fair time and there is just nothing like it. For a long time I have admitted that I love county and state fairs. From my years of talking to people, I know many of you come to the fair for all of the fair food. I know several of you have fair food plans, meaning what local food you are going to enjoy on certain days.

Last year, I started my 4-H Fair journey with a pork burger and I will be honest: I have no idea how many of them I enjoyed. I will tell you that you know you have eaten too many when the people working the pork booth make comments about me being there again or the number I was buying. I tried to explain that I was buying for someone else and they said, “Sure you are,” and just laughed. My passion for the pork burgers also became one of my coworkers’, so this year we are planning to start the fair with a pork burger.

I continue my personal fair food plan, which is to share. For me, sharing means you get to taste and try more foods. What is so nice about eating at the 4-H club and service club stands is that they invest their profits back into our community.

I hesitate to try to write about all the foods offered by the 4-H Clubs and service clubs in our community, but I am going to give it a good lick-of-the-fingers try.

I am not writing in a favorite order, but am starting down what the fair food junkies call “Food Row” or “Food Road.” So, I am going to start at the beginning of Locust Street.

First, the rabbit club: they have some of the greenest and healthiest foods you will find on the 4-H Fairgrounds. They offer rabbit/bunny barbecue, rabbit sausage with gravy on biscuits, green salads and more health foods. The rabbit meat for their booth is donated from many of their members’ meat rabbits that don’t meet show requirements.

A favorite of many at the fair is a visit to the “Pork Producers” for a pork chop with bone or butterfly cut, a pork burger or a ham sandwich.

Once you have had your pork chop, you can just walk across the street to the “Dairy Bar” and have some dessert.

If you like to have 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 “Walking Taco.”

Next, we cross the street again to a shared building of the 4-H Goat Club, Goshen Noon Kiwanis, and PSI Iota XI Sorority. The main draw is the grilled one-pound burger and 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 Elkhart Noon Exchange Club for Buffalo Burgers and wraps.

The volunteers at Elkhart Noon Optimist prepare fish, catfish and tenderloins.

Along the way is also the Star Light Chapter 181 that is known for their Sloppy Joes.

Right on the corner is Kappa Kappa Kappa and they have fresh pie and ice cream.

When you round the corner onto Rotary Boulevard and walk a little, you will come to the 4-H Dairy Feeder Club. They’re serving haystacks. On Tractor Pull Thursday, they’ll be doing a breakfast haystack.

Next is 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 Leader stand and they have the best popcorn at the fair as well as hot dogs and beverages.

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.

My goal in writing this is to have more than whetted your appetite so you come to the 4-H fair, see the 4-H and open class exhibits, visit with the commercial exhibitors, eat great food and make fair memories. There are also commercial food vendors and a favorite of many is the Chinese food — a little salty but good, it is down by the midway. Everything that I have eaten there is always excellent.

I do hope to see you at the fair and I know you will enjoy the food!

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