fairfood

Willie Madaus, co-owner of Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls, holds a gourmet cinnamon roll topped with bacon, while the business’s co-founder, Eldon Dale, center, prepares to sample a bite of this treat. Janis Dale, the other co-founder of the business, enjoys the moment alongside her husband.

 

 

After two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the California State Fair returned Cal Expo on July 15, and there will be plenty of food offerings to entice the taste buds.

Freshly cooked corn dogs and turkey legs, and cotton candy spun on site, are just a few of the familiar food items that will make this year’s fair a memorable experience for many people.

Darla Givens, spokesperson for the fair, noted that this historic Sacramento event’s return is a welcomed sight for many people.

“It’s just a good time to be back, because we’ve all been cooped up for the past two and a half years,” she said. “And I think people are just looking for that reset button to come out and enjoy the things that maybe we have taken for granted previously, that we can look back and appreciate again.”

Givens spoke about one of the fair’s new attractions: the Candy Maze Selfie Experience.

“There are thousands of pounds of candy that you can weave your way through, (including) some of the retro favorites, the root beer barrels or the Chick-O-Sticks,” she said. “And then you have selfie (photograph) stations where you can take your picture there. There is one glamour selfie station, and it has the big red lips.”

Following her visit to the sweets-filled maze of candy and photography stations, Givens mentioned that she finally had her first Cow Tales candy, a caramel treat with a sugary, cream center.

“It was the Oreo Cow Tale; it was good,” she said with a smile.

Candy offered at the Candy Maze Selfie Experience is sold by the pound.

Also making their debut at the fair are food trucks, Givens noted.

“We have four food trucks,” she said. “Two are Juicys, one is Wing Mahal. (The latter vendor offers) a fusion between Indian and American food. It is absolutely delicious and flavorful. We also have Soul Ona Roll, and they serve soul food on a roll. And they’re going to be serving their chicken and sausage jambalaya during the fair.”

Wing Mahal owner Naresh Virdi spoke to the Citizen about Wing Mahal, which is another new addition at this fair.

“Wing Mahal is a chicken wings restaurant,” he said. “We created our first (brick-and-mortar) restaurant in November 2020 in Folsom. We’ve got a second one coming right here on Exposition (Boulevard) by Costco, and we are looking to open up a third one in Elk Grove on Elk Grove Boulevard, right by Walmart.”

Virdi mentioned that this business, which also has three food trucks, features high-quality sauce that is made on site.

“For some reason, nobody had taken the Indian curry and turned (it) into sauces,” he said. “So, we were the first ones to do it.”

Willie Madaus, co-owner of Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls, noted that his parents-in-law, Eldon and Janis Dale, established this business in 1978, and that it has since won multiple prestigious awards. Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls is a longtime vendor at this fair.

“Their product has held itself up for 44 years at the fairs,” he said. “People keep coming back because they are just outstanding. They’ve only gotten better over the years with our new additions.”

Madaus mentioned that the success of this product includes making cream cheese-based frosting in house.

“That’s the number one seller of all of (the flavors) is the frosted cinnamon roll,” he said.

Among the other longtime State Fair vendors who has once again set up a food stand at the fair is Milo Franks.

“I’ve been doing this fair consecutively since 1970,” said Franks, who is famously known at the fair for his corn dogs. “We started with an ICEE stand and it was just a one-man operation. We got into the corn dog deal in about 1976, and from there, it just kept growing and growing and growing.

“And we got into hamburgers and we got into steak sandwiches and other things. One day, I said, ‘You know what? Let’s just concentrate on (the basics) and be simple and be good at what we do.’

In addition to corn dogs, Milo’s stand offers a limited number of other items: pizza, curly fries and drinks. Pizza has also been part of Frank’s offerings since the mid-1970s.

Sandy Enright, who is the mother of Juicys, LLC owner Brett Enright, said that her son bought his own food vending stand for this fair when he was 15, and that he is now 52.

The Enrights have been selling food at the California State Fair since 1985, Sandy noted.

“We have the cheesy bacon curly fries,” she said. “That’s really popular. We have the foot-long sausage on a stick, which is really popular, and, of course, our sausage and our turkey legs. We get them out of Texas. They’re preservative free and they’re very good quality.

“My son requires quality food, and everything we serve is hot off the grill.”

While standing next to her funnel cake stand, Jennifer Simpson told the Citizen that she is the owner of three food stands at this year’s fair.

She spoke about the quality of her funnel cakes.

“We have a proprietary mix that you won’t have anywhere else out here,” Simpson said. “We chop our strawberries fresh, we have 10 different kinds of funnel cakes, and we make our funnel cakes with love.”

Simpson’s top three selling funnel cake flavors are strawberry, Nutella, and powdered sugar.

Eddie Barrera, of the Sacramento-based Hot Doggin’, said that his business specializes in serving gourmet, premium, all-beef hot dogs.

“We do different styles from bacon wrap to western bacons, guacamole dogs, Chicago dog, Polish, hot links,” he said. “The list just goes on and on, (and) anything we can, we bacon wrap it.”

Berrera, a self-described “hot dog connoisseur,” added that at the State Fair he acquired the nickname, “The Wienie King.”

An attraction of this fair is its food festival, which allows fair guests the opportunity to purchase four food items from various vendors at a discounted cost.

After purchasing a food festival pass for $28 online or inside the main gate of the fairgrounds, an attendee of the fair can use that pass to buy four food items from participating vendors. Each of the four festival tickets of the pass has a $10 value.

Festival food items are only available to those who purchase a festival pass.

The items offered at the food festival are those that have been entered in the festival’s competition.

Also returning is the $2 Taste of the Fair, which allows fairgoers the opportunity to purchase bite-sized versions of food offered by fair vendors.

Givens invited people to come to this year’s fair and enjoy its many offerings, including a wide variety of food.

“Come on out to California State Fair & Food Festival,” she said. “You can eat your way through the fair, from one end of the fair to the other end, all the way to our Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstand, where we have food there, as well.”

Admission to the fair is $14 for adults/general; $12 for seniors, 62 years old and older; $10 for children, 5 to 12 years old, and free for children, 4 and younger. Parking at the fair is $15. The state fair will last until Sunday, July 31.

For additional information, call (916) 263-3000 or visit the website, www.CalExpoStateFair.com.