GRAND ISLAND — The Nebraska State Fair will have all sorts of outrageous food offerings this year, many involving combinations of bacon, exotic cheese and pineapple.
Before we get to those, though, we have to talk about a food that is the essence of Nebraska.
What can be more Nebraskan than corn?
So it’s good news that corn on the cob is returning to the Nebraska State Fair. “We did not have it last year,” said Jaime Parr, who is the fair’s chief of sales.
The toppings are not limited to melted butter, although that’s hard to beat.
“There’s a nice Mexican blend that has gone over really well at Nebraska State Fair in the past. So we’re excited to see that back this year,” Parr said.
Not only that, but the corn comes from a good area. The vendor who operated the corn on the cob stand in the past has switched occupations. But this year’s provider is getting his corn from the same grower who supplied his predecessor. It was raised in the Gibbon area, Parr said. “And it’s delicious corn,” she said.
Speaking of corn, fairgoers will also be able to enjoy “a couple of superfun corn dogs,” Parr said.
One is a Baja corn dog, topped with a spicy mayonnaise mixture. It also features Cojito cheese, cilantro and sweet peppers.
The other one is a Dilly Dog. The hot dog is surrounded by a pickle sleeve, Parr said. The vendor removes the core of a dill pickle and sticks the hot dog in the middle. “And then they batter dip that in the corn dog batter and fry it up,” Parr said, adding that it will be a hit with all “those pickle lovers out there.”
Both of those specialty corn dogs are made by Hardenbrook Concessions.
There will be “lots of new foods at the State Fair this year,” Parr said. Sustenance will be provided by 55 to 60 food vendors.
Leon’s Food Truck, which is new this year, will bring “a vast variety of authentic Mexican foods,” Parr said. The owner comes from the Norfolk area.
Featured at the fair will be shrimp nachos, which “look delicious,” Parr said. The dish features “giant pieces of shrimp” on a bed of tortilla chips, as well as a couple of types of cheese and queso sauce.
Parr points to a couple of new offerings from Cactus Jack’s. One of them, the Wicked Witch sandwich, brings together pulled chicken, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, cole slaw and jalapenos.
The other new sandwich is the Hillbilly Burger. One of Cactus Jack’s gourmet burger patties is topped with macaroni and cheese, pickles and barbecue sauce. Both of those sandwiches are “sure to delight,” Parr said.
Todd Morgan of Grand Island will bring Sparky’s Wing Nuts to the fair. Parr points out that Morgan’s sauce has been crowned world champion three times.
Freund Family Food will have a bourbon chicken bowl. The seasoned chicken will be accompanied by broccoli and rice, all served up in a bowl. So it will be “very portable” and ready to “eat on the go,” said Parr, who is in her 21st year with the fair.
Maybe you know somebody who complains that fairs never have pasta. The solution to her problem is a cold pasta salad with jalapenos in it, made by Papa Tom’s. To find him, look behind the Tom Dinsdale Automotive Cattle Barn.
The fair’s new doughnut provider is The Daily Donut. At that stand, you can buy a doughnut that combines the flavor of maple syrup and bacon.
At Made it Myself Shaved Ice, kids and adults can add the flavorings of their choice.
The Hawaiian Chill will serve pineapple whip pina coladas (without alcohol) and strawberry whip frozen treats.
The Secret Garden will offer two new smoothies. One is a four-berry blend. The other is tropical.
JoJo’s Gelato from Aurora will serve a birthday gelato sundae, which consists of a red velvet waffle cone filled with gelato and sprinkles.
Fairgoers will also be able to buy a giant popcorn ball served on a stick. Those corn pops are available in three flavors, including tutti-frutti.
Every year, the fair encourages vendors to bring something new. Management knows the media and public want to know what crazy or delicious foods will be available, she said.
So the fair works with its new and returning partners. Management asks vendors to think about what’s in their trailers when it comes to fryers, grills or freezers and “the ingredients that they might already have,” Parr said. The fair works “with them to try to identify something new that they could bring to the next year’s fair.”