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As State Fairs Cancel Events, Fair Food Can Still Be On Fans' Menus

Sep 9, 2020
Originally published on September 9, 2020 2:47 pm

The pandemic has meant that many state fairs have been cancelled this year. That has left a lot of fairgoers hungry for classics like deep fried Oreos, funnel cakes and curly fries.

Enter state fair meal kit boxes, shipped nationwide from StateFairToGo.com, a company in Minnetonka, Minn.

"It's a fun way to taste fair favorites, and it's a fun way to support these local concessionaires, many of whom rely on the fair for their livelihoods," Josh Zamansky, who owns the meal kit company, tells NPR.

When Minnesota's state fair got canceled in May, Zamansky figured: look, you can get everything else to go at this point. Why not state fair food?

He started with a Minnesota state fair edition, then expanded his venture into Texas. The Texas State Fair – which last year drew more than 2.5 million people – was supposed to start later this month.

Zamansky, who has a background in catering corporate events, says this isn't just about indulging in fair food. State fairs are a big business for local economies. He partners with fair vendors to include items they would have sold during a normal year.

The Texas meal kit includes fair staples to prepare at home:

  • 1 pound funnel cake mix
  • 2-pound turkey leg
  • 1.5 dozen fried Oreos
  • 1 pound fried okra and cream gravy
  • 1.5 pounds seasoned curly fries
  • 5 corn dogs

State fairs may be canceling events during the pandemic, but they're getting creative with virtual options. The Texas State Fair, for example, will have virtual arts and crafts contests — including face mask decorating. Instead of cooking contests based on taste, contestants will be judged on cake and cookie decorating. And the butter sculpture — a state fair staple — this year will go mini.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The pandemic meant that a lot of state fairs were canceled this year and state fair foods, too - the funnel cakes, the fried Oreos, the Italian ices. And then this guy and his sister got an idea.

JOSH ZAMANSKY: My name is Josh Zamansky. I am founder and CEO of statefairtogo.com. And I actually credit my sister with coming up with the idea of this DIY-style meal kit of fair foods for families.

KING: When the Minnesota State Fair canceled, Zamansky figured, look; you can get everything else to go at this point, so why not state fair food? He started in Minnesota. Then he expanded his venture into Texas.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Zamansky has a background in catering corporate events. And he says this isn't just about indulging in fair food - although, it certainly is about that. State fairs are big business for local economies.

ZAMANSKY: Minnesota's attendance in 2019 was a little over 2 million. Texas was closer at 2.5 million.

INSKEEP: Zamansky teams up with fair vendors to include items they would have sold during a normal year. So what's in a meal kit?

ZAMANSKY: A pound of Fernie's funnel cake mix, 2-pound turkey leg from Farm Pac Kitchens, 1 1/2 dozen fried Oreos, over a pound of fried okra and creamed gravy, with a pound and a half of seasoned curly fries and five corn dogs from the Dock restaurant.

KING: How many calories is that? Zamansky didn't have an exact number. He just says...

ZAMANSKY: Quite a few (laughter).

KING: Quite a few. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.