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Ekhart County 4-H Fair 2015: New items are sweet, fried goodness

For lovers of the trendy, the gimmicky, the fried new food, the start of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair is like Christmas morning.

Most of us will get out of our pajamas before heading to the east side of Goshen and seeking out this year’s new items. The fair opens Friday, July 24 and continues through Saturday, Aug. 1.

I wish I had a penny for every calorie consumed during the nine-day fair, but I don’t really want to count calories or pennies and neither does anyone else.

At a preview event Thursday at the fairgrounds at 17746 C.R. 34, some of the new items at this year’s fair were on display and available to taste.

It’s become a bit of a game to invent a new food for the fair. It happens for other events and occasionally what someone throws in a fryer at the Texas State Fair will make it onto a national news show.

At the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, the guy who orchestrated many of the new items as he made arrangements for the food vendors to come to the fair was Ora Miller, who died recently. “Orie,” as he was called, is being honored with two new foods, both fried and both bearing his name. Here’s a rundown of those items and a few more new ones:

“The Orie” is two chocolate funnel cakes with a sweet white cream slathered in the middle. “It’s a lot of sweet. Good for you,” said Kevin McGrath, owner of the concession booth that will be offering it near the grandstand. The chocolate funnel cakes have a deeper flavor, but he’s right. This is super sweet. “Mamma” Jane Harris came up with the $8 dessert, he said. It’s good, but it’s an item best shared.

“Coffee balls” are one of the new items in the Pence booth near the midway along Food Row. Leslie Pence’s family has been frying stuff and trying new fried stuff for years. This year, the new items are a coffee-flavored batter served with a dash of powdered coffee creamer and splash of caramel. “We’ve been trying to come up with things everyone eats every day and put a twist on it; eats and drinks,” she said.

In addition to the coffee balls, Pence’s has fried tequila balls. Those have a bit of lime flavor, but no alcohol. They’re decent, but not nearly as good as the coffee balls. An order of either is $5 for four balls.

Peanut butter and jelly elephant ears are available in the Wither’s booth near the north end of Food Row. For $6 you can get a giant elephant ear with a jelly glaze and stream of sweet peanut butter drizzled over powdered sugar. I’m an elephant ear purist — cinnamon sugar only please — but this is a fun new take.

Blueberry waffle delight is in its second year at the fair. The Elkhart County Exchange Club will offer a small waffle with ice cream from The Dairy Bar and blueberry topping for $3.50. It’s a nice little treat that’s not just for breakfast.

Food Row has two new vendors.

There’s an Auntie Anne’s pretzel truck at the far north end. The Pretzel Wagon is still on the north edge of the midway, but the new truck will offer the pretzel that originated in Pennsylvania.

The Elkhart County 4-H Saddle Club took over the former Elkhart Exchange Club booth since that club isn’t at the fair anymore. It’ll make buffalo burgers and some hot dogs as the Exchange Club folks did, but also some of the items it has offered at the concession stand near the grandstand.

Cindy Grove, who oversees the two stands for the 4-H club, said they’re trying to offer healthier, non-fried options, particularly for breakfast. A baked oatmeal is served for $3.50 with fruit and a French vanilla cream. Egg bake will also be offered.

There are other new items at the fair, including fried Kit Kats, but these are the big ones — the latest renditions of fried butter and fried Kool-Aid.

Enjoy the food at the fair, whether it’s a new item or a beloved standby you’ve been eating since you were a kid. Our fair has them all.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat fair food.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story said the Elkhart Noon Exchange Club is gone altogether, but it’s just gone from the fair.

Marshall V. King is food columnist for Flavor 574 and community editor for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805,, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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