When country music’s Tate Stevens comes to play on The Great Frederick Fair’s grandstand stage Sunday, Sept. 15, you might find him on the Midway munching on corn dogs and funnel cakes.
“I have been a fair food connoisseur for many years,” said Stevens in a phone interview last week. The Missouri-native and “The X Factor” Season 2 winner has tried deep-fried Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers and pickles, but it’s hard to beat the “ordinary fair foods” like funnel cake.
Yes, when it comes to the fair some people come for the rides and games, some for the animals and Machinery Row, some for the grandstand entertainment, but for a lot of people it’s a week of noshing on corn dogs, crab cakes, cotton candy and candy apples.
This year, along with the familiar foods, fair-goers will have some new treats to tickle their taste buds.
“We have 48 food vendors this year,” said Becky Brashear, the fair’s general manager. And some of them will be serving some new items, including fresh peach sundaes, deep-fried vegetables, pit lamb and deep-fried cheese. And along with the beer garden, fair-goers can now visit the indoor wine garden.
During fair week, three teas created specifically for the GFF will be available at the gift center, located outside the Null Building. The fair worked with Mary Jean Clark of Voila in Frederick tea shop to develop the signature flavors, which are tied to this year’s theme of “Under every nose is a smile at The Great Frederick Fair.”
The three flavors are cotton candy, candy apple and caramel popcorn, said Karen Crum, social media planner and public relations coordinator for the fair. “Each will be available in 1-ounce tins and come with a tea infuser. They will be sold as a package with a (GFF) mug or separately,” she said. The mug has a speckled blue finish and the fair’s wheat log and banner along with the words “Established 1822.” The tins have the GFF and Voila logos on them.
WFRE radio personality Dave Conrad was born and raised in Frederick. “This will be my 51st Great Frederick Fair,” he said, adding he’s missed a few fairs in his 57 years.
“I have different places for different things,” he said. For breakfast it’s Dougherty’s (Country Kitchen) for bacon, sausage, eggs and more bacon. He likes the bean soup and the egg and cheese sandwiches served by the New Market Grange.
“JB Seafood is one of the newer ones and is good for dinner, “ he said. “Uncle Moe’s Soul Food puts out great stuff, like fried catfish and hush puppies. Of course, you can’t go to the fair without going to Hemp’s for a roast beef sandwich that’s been smoked all day. The list can go on and on.”
Conrad said he likes to support local organizations, churches and businesses, and misses the days when many of the fire companies had food stands at the fair.
As a youngster, he said “you would save all year so you would have money to spend on a date. That was a big date. Being asked to go to the fair was up there with being asked to go to the prom.”
Lee Redmond, 47, remembers when fresh-baked kinklings were a fair treat. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Feagan family had a stand on the corner next to the Household Building (now called the Null Building), she said.
She remembers watching taffy being pulled at one stand. “Trinity Church had a tent. My parents used to eat there and I would watch the taffy pulling,” said Redmond, a life member of the Frederick County Agricultural Society Inc. “(My parents) would have fried oyster sandwiches. I was never into that.
“I always have to have a crab cake, go to Hemp’s for barbecue and get a milkshake” from the Dairy Bar under the grandstand,” Redmond said.
Redmond and her father will try the crab cakes at various vendors and “compare notes. Every year we’ll critique them,” she said.
John Nicodemus, of Walkersville, said the fair has been part of his life “pretty much all of my 57 years,” particularly when his daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, were showing sheep in their 4-H days.
His favorite? Ham and swiss cheese sandwiches and shoo-fly pie from the Pennsylvania Dutch tent near the grandstand. “Those have been favorites for as long as I can remember,” he said.
But each member of the Nicodemus family seems to have had their own favorite over the years. His wife, Ellen, enjoys ice cream cones from the Dairy Bar, daughter Emily was a fan of fresh-squeezed lemonade while daughter Anna liked the bean soup from the Grange food stand by the sheep barn, and for son Tim it was a root beer float.
Nicodemus said, as a youngster he was more into the rides and games than the food.
Conrad said one of his earliest fair memories is walking through the Midway and past the hoochie coochie shows with his grandmother, who always gave him a sharp warning: “Let me see you looking over there once and we will go home!”
“I miss a lot of the old stuff,” he said, “but the fair is better now.”
The 151st Great Frederick Fair runs Sept. 13 to 21.