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Elkhart County 4-H Fair: Cheaper Food Row options this year include grilled cheese, pork burgers, popsicles and more

For folks with family in tow — or financially deficient newspaper interns like me — a feast of food at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair can quickly turn into a money pit. 

Fortunately, there are more than a few items available at this year’s Food Row that fill stomachs without depleting funds.

Perhaps the best deal, which could be considered part-meal, is the grilled cheese found at the 4-H Dairy Bar 1 concession pavilion.

On Friday, July 24, members of Goshen’s Fairhaven Mennonite Amish Church were serving locally produced Colby cheese sandwiches for $1 each. Church member Sharon Troyer said her congregation will receive part of the stand’s proceeds from that day. A combo meal of a cheese sandwich, ice cream cone and water runs for $2.50. 

Coming up on Tuesday, July 28, the Fairhaven youth group will be at the 4-H Dairy Bar 2 concession pavilion, and partial proceeds from the day’s sales will go toward a future mission trip. 

At the Exchange Club of Elkhart County, four-year club member Richard Eysol’s concoction of blueberries, ice cream and a malted waffle had a surprising balance between the warmth of the freshly made waffle and the thick, soft-serve vanilla ice from the 4-H Dairy Bar, which held firm without melting much.  

“Would you believe me if I told you they were calorie free?” Eysol joked.

Eysol added the $3.50 dessert item last year and said the club sold 313 individual orders. He hopes to hit 400 this year, with proceeds from their sale and the club’s other items going to area nonprofits like CAPS, Bashor Children’s Home, LaCasa, Inc. and the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County.

This year’s club goal is to raise about $25,000 to be donated.

Beginning at 6 a.m. each day of the fair, the Exchange Club offers all-you-can-eat pancakes, a single sausage and a drink for $6.50. Eysol said it’s not uncommon for patrons to bake under the sun on Sunday morning for more than a half-hour as they wait for fresh cakes after the fair parade. For hydration, the club sells $1 bottles of water, 12-ounce Pepsi products and milk, while other vendors were charging $2 or more for soda and water.

If you want to sip something sweet, the 4-H Lamb Club sells a reasonably priced drink that won’t squeeze more than a Jefferson from your wallet. For $3, young members of the club will pour a mouth-puckering 16-ounce lemon shakeup. There is also a larger, 32-ounce refillable choice, but it was more than double the price and each refill was an additional charge.

Old school-style popsicles in plastic sleeves were on sale at the Order of Eastern Star of Indiana’s Starlight Chapter 181’s pavilion for 25 cents.

Read that again — 25 cents.

For smaller children, one of these could be the inexpensive alternative to $5 or $6 elephant ears.

Over at the Elkhart County Pork Producers pavilion, LaGrange’s Mishler Packing provides most of the pig products. A double pork burger with cheese is $6. Of the multiple meat vendors on Food Row, pork producers seems to be one of the better values.  

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