2016 Wisconsin State Fair: All Good Things Must Come to an End

The marathon is over. And by marathon I mean 11 days of fair. We’re now four days removed from the last day of the fair (and our last visit) and I’ve pulled myself together enough to write one final blog post. Watching the Olympics over the past week I’ve realized the fair really is like a marathon, you’ve got to pace yourself and you’ve got to be ready for it. You don’t prepare for a marathon by sitting on the couch and you don’t prepare for the fair by sitting on the couch either (but you totally could; which is why the fair is better than a marathon hands down, no debate, all day every day). Unfortunately, this marathon left me with weight gain, mild bouts of narcolepsy, and what can only be described as “food-on-a-stick-elbow.” All worth it – obviously.

Anyway, it was hard to top the excitement (and deliciousness) of the Sporkies but we still hadn’t had enough fair so here are a few more highlights from days 3 and 4:

Chocolate Dipped Crullers on a Stick (from Grebes). Fun fact, Crullers were mentioned in the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz and may have been a metaphor for a Tornado due to their twisted shape.(1) They’re a metaphor for flippin’ delicious in my mind.
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The Pabst Blue Raspberry Beercicle was so good we had to go back for another. This time the Citrus Shandy version. Just as good and maybe better. Sorry kids, none for you. Bonus points for noticing the lady slamming the silver bullet in the background.
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Deep Fried Cheese Balls on a Stick. You know I wasn’t going to pass on these. They were excellent. Nice creamy melty white cheese on the inside, excellent light and crispy batter and a tangy dipping sauce. Everything working here. That being said, if you want fried cheese – stick with the deep fried curds for a more classic taste and better value.
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Breakfast Tots and Donut Grilled Cheese – can’t think of a better way to start the day.IMG_4678

Mac-Bottom Pizza. The slightly more traditional sibling to the Chili-Mac-Bottom Pizza we had for the Sporkies. It was huge but this one was lacking a little as the Mac & Cheese didn’t pair with the mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni and sausage as well as without the one with excellent Chili and unique toppings.IMG_4686

Pre-Sporkies we needed to find some non-food fun. Seemed like the perfect time to finally try the “Personality Handwriting Analysis”. The Televac 6000 was so old – even my pictures came out black & white. I thought the dot-matrix printer was a nice touch even if our analysis wasn’t quite spot on. IMG_4713

Never one to turn down a workout – I took a spin on this vibration board. My eyes are up here miss.
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So many Cream Puff boxes!
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I can’t figure out why Tara won’t let me get one of these. IMG_4679A real corny crew. Some might call me their Kernel. Poor Ellis and his broken leg were a bit dubious of Mr. Corn.
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1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruller


 

2016 Wisconsin State Fair: The Sporkies!!

Judging the 2016 Sporkies at the Wisconsin State Fair today was amazing. Period. End of blog.

Ok, it’s not the end, because this is probably the all-time pinnacle of my state fair experiences. So, I’ll do my best to give you a taste of it. First off, huge thanks to the Wisconsin State Fair, especially Amber and Chelsea there who made this happen for us (and did enough sleuthing on the interwebs to figure out Tara and I were married and equally crazy for fair food). Also thanks to the celebrity judges for making us feel welcome up on stage and to emcee Kyle Cherek (of Wisconsin Foodie fame) for making it easy for us to contribute to the commentary. And finally, a big thanks to all the chefs and food creators that made these (and all) the amazing and unique foods that make the Wisconsin State Fair the best. There were no losers here today because these people are delivering happiness to the masses – in the form of fried, sticked(?), wrapped, dipped or maybe something new no one even knows about yet. This was an awesome experience that I may have actually in fact been born for (as some have suggested) and not something I would have ever imagined getting to participate in. It was extra special to do it with my partner in fair-ing and my better half – Tara (scoring some points here hopefully).  So that’s my acceptance speech I guess. On to the food!

After waiting giddily backstage for a little while, we took our seats (myself right next to Packer Hall of Famer and inventor of the Lambeau Leap – Leroy Butler). First out was the Chili-Mac Bottom Pizza. I was too excited (and nervous) to remember to take a picture so here’s a State Fair photo of it:

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I’d describe it as pizza loosely, but I’d describe it as delicious tightly, as in yeah, it was really good. A deep fried crispy-breaded mac and cheese “patty” on the bottom with an awesome toppings including a really good chili with nice chunks of beef and some kind of coffee rub. I wanted some more time with this one. Maybe some alone time. We scored it pretty high.

But in rapid fire succession the next finalist was brought out and I followed suit of the other judges and reluctantly relinquished my half eaten pizza. Next up was the Fiesta Cookie Dough on a Stick. Just like the other cookie doughs on stick I’ve ravished in other trips to the fair but this time with a rich chocolate dough dipped in chocolate and covered with fairly spicy chili pepper bits. It was hot in my mouth but the cold chocolatey dough balanced it out pretty well. I probably would have finished this one too but would have paid dearly as we were only on number two.

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Third, the Mountain Man Bloody Mary Burger. A third pounder made of Antelope, Bison, Boar, Elk, and Venison with some bloody mary sauce that tasted like bloody mary and a nice skewer through it. They did a nice job on this – I liked it. It wasn’t special enough to be a winner but I’d eat it any day.

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I was starting to slow down but the food wasn’t. Fourth up was the Thanksgiving Day Burrito. The pictures of this one gave Tara the most pause – it didn’t look like it would be that great – tan tortilla, tan mashed potatoes, tan turkey, darker tan stuffing and darker tan gravy. Red cranberry sauce on the side though. Turns out this was really solid though. All the components were quality, I just thought it maybe needed to be deep fried. And I’d really rather eat it in November than in August.

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Fifth. Sam’s Klement’s Racing Sausages Corn Dog. The five Brewers’ racing sausages – Hot Dog, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Italian and Polish all with their own section within a corn batter. I’ll give it this, the best corn batter I’ve ever had. And I love sausage (____ <– insert immature joke here). But I think I liked the Hot Dog and Brat the best, the others didn’t seem to belong to me. But this did when 2nd place and the fairgoers fave. So you should probably try it. I ate it all to get the full experience. See video of us commenting on it here (at the 1:40 mark). And how I feel about what I said here.

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Really getting full now but we were getting to the best part. Sixth was the Elvis Chicken and Waffle Sandwich. I really like the idea of this (and a couple of the judges really loved it) but i think it had too much going on for my liking. The banana peanut butter waffles – good. The chicken with maple siracha sauce – good (actually the fried chicken itself was some of the best I’ve ever had). But I don’t know put it all together and I was overwhelmed. Still an impressive offering nonetheless.

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On to dessert for seven, Sprecher Root Beer Float Cake. The most beautiful of all the dishes from first glance, it was a slice of cake that looked like a frothy mug of root beer. It tasted as good as it looked too. It was really good and spoiler alert – it won. I’d recommend you go get yourself one (probably to share).

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The final finalist (and third place winner in a tiebreaker vs. the waffle sandwich) was the Deep Fried Old Fashioned. I think this was my personal favorite just for the excellent effort of turning a classic Wisconsin drink into deep fried classic fair fare. It looked beautiful and really did a great job capturing the flavors of an old-fashioned. It was really rich though and definitely another good one to share.

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So that’s it! That was our Sporkies Experience. It was really memorable and a lot of fun. Here’s some more pictures:

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And here’s another news clip I found online (we don’t say anything in it but I can definitely be seen chewing some food with purpose).

 

 

 

2016 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 2

Monday came quick and it was time to think about getting back to the fair. I decided to go ahead and go to work (I know, right?) and then meet the family there right after. As I sat in a meeting towards the end of the day, all I could think was, “What is wrong with you people? Stop talking. Don’t you know I’m trying to get out of here and eat some fair food!” Of course they didn’t know. But they should’ve seen it in my eyes. Or maybe I should wear a shirt to work that says something like, My Other Job is Fairing  or I’d rather be in West Allis. On 2nd thought I’d probably be fired or at very least ostracized from future water cooler talks. Oh well.

Anyway, we got right into things with a quick left out of the tunnel back to  Spam for some Spam Curds. I eat these things because I’m caring about sharing – with you the reader. But honestly, I didn’t mind them at all. At first glance they looked like odd little tater tots.

IMG_4575 But bite into one and there’s that tender hammish “meat.” Ellis actually mowed down on a good dozen of these, pounding his stroller tray for more between each one.  Be glad the inside is slightly out of focus.

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Of course we both had to wash it down with some Bucks’ milk. It’s starting to become a challenge for me to get my share of milk with Beckett hitting 3 at a pop, Ellis chugging one, and myself just left with whatever I can carry. Parenting is full of sacrifices and this might be at the top of the list. (They’re worth it).

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Something sweet seemed like a good idea for the next course and the Elvis-on-a-stick presented itself to me (and you don’t say no to the king). It appeared and tasted to be battered and deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Beckett got jealous and since we had a coupon in the bargain book, we treated him to a cookie dough on a stick (guess who finished it – clue, it wasn’t him).

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After spending some time in the animal barns we went to seek out some more food – after all it had been like 30 minutes. Tara peeled off to get some Brad and Harry’s cheese curds (a tradition) and I was left with the kids wondering what the heck I was gonna to do. So, I went off the reservation a bit and impulse bought some deep fried cajun shark bites on a stick.

IMG_4595 I don’t really know what possessed me to get this besides that they were deep fried bites of something on a stick. I was actually enjoying them though when I started thinking that it’s not really normal to eat a carnivorous animal, am I right? I mean I guess it’s the perfect circle of life – or at least proves human supremacy at the top of the food chain (unless you’re a fan of shark week) but still I couldn’t help but wonder what had this shark eaten in its short but ultimately productive life (productive in that it became fair food of course). In the end, it kinda grossed me out. I finished them of course but needed a beer at The Micro to wash ’em down. I went with Mob Craft’s Hope Gose the Grapefruit and found it both refreshing and well-balanced for one of the many hoppy / fruity combo beers you can find these days.

Still hot and bothered we searched out the PBR Beercicles I was so excited about. They were available at the new PBR Park (a nice venue with all things PBR!)

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All they had left was the Pabst Blue Raspberry – but it wasn’t actually Blue Raspberry – just a play on words with your standard red raspberry. Good choice there. And good choice by us! This was an amazing popsicle – they actually had to card us to sell it to us and it was clear that it was made of beer. Cold crisp PBR! And just the right amount of raspberry flavor. Man this thing was good. Highly recommended!

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Tara and Beckett rode the Sky Glider while I contemplated a Bacon Cinnamon Roll. I didn’t get it but am pretty sure I will at some point. It felt like time to go home. Being dinner time though, we thought, “well, we need dinner, we’re at the fair, we have to get something before we go.” We’ve always been intrigued by “Island Noodles” as we walk past it every time we enter and exit the fair. There’s always a long line so they’re probably good right? Well just because there’s a population of fairgoers that do something, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. There’s also a population of fairgoers that think, “no tattoo is a bad tattoo” and that smoking while pushing a stroller is perfectly acceptable. That being said, the Island Noodles were actually fine – good by any wok fried standard even. But not something to get at the fair. We shared a carton as we walked back to the car and as I ate the broccoli and carrots mixed in with the noodles- it just felt wrong. Healthy and wrong.

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And that’s it for Day 2! Time for a good night sleep. Tomorrow is the Sporkies! We’ll be live on stage at 11AM! I’ll be the guy that can’t stop smiling.

2016 Wisconsin State Fair:  Stick a Fork in Day 1

Like a couple of old snowbirds, we completed our day at the fair and made it home for a nap by early afternoon. It’s not the heat but the humidity that gets you they say. And they’re right. With the dew point working its way up from “uncomfortable” towards “intolerable” and the current temp one-upping the forecasted high we knew it would be a challenge today. Throw in 2 temperamental kids, one large man-child (yours truly) and a _____ lady on hand (MadLib it); we had to get in and get out for opening day at the fair. 

But none of that or the 30 minute line to get in could keep us from doing our best to take in some of the tastes, sights, and smells on day 1 of the 165th running of this grand old fair. 


A delicious donut breakfast sandwich kicked off the fairtivities for Tara. (Reviewed last year here)

Next stop Spam! A new and welcome edition to the Wisconsin State Fair (but apparently a regular at the Minnesota State Fair in its home state). I went with the Spam breakfast sandwich over the SpamCurds to try and eat more chronologically thru the day. You get to customize the sandwich with your choice of Spam flavor (yes, Spam has multiple flavored and bacon seemed appropriate to me). Aside from being on your standard bottom-shelf grocery store hamburger bun, I had no issue with this no-teeth-needed sandwich (continuing the old folks theme). I think I like the idea of Spam – the general Spam aura and vibe – better than the actual product itself. 


But either way, I was glad to try something new. Here’s the picture – in its half-eaten glory – there’s no glamorizing this one. 

On to the institution that is the Bucks’ Milk House to cleanse the pallete. They went back to the more traditional starting lineup of Chocolate, Strawberry, Root Beer, and Banana, but kept Orange Creamsicle from the previous year. Maybe they thought last year’s flavor shakeup was a mistake (kind of like signing Greg Monroe – or maybe he’s the Orange Creamsicle – I don’t know). The bigger news is that the milk is no longer $.25! It’s $.50. Yeah my world is upside down as well. I can’t complain though – it’s been $.25 since at least 1994 (I remember because Herb Kohl came to our elementary school that year and all I wanted to ask him was where I could buy that milk outside of the fair). 


(Ellis BYOM’d)

Needing to continue rehydrating, we naturally made a stop @theMicro for some Beermosas. They’ve got a great selection this year and it’s fun to think about what would go well with some refreshing OJ. We’d recommend the Royal Nektar or Grapefruit Raddler. 

The 9.5%ABV Nektar also makes for great nook cleaner (kidding). 
A trip to the so-hot-it-could-melt-your-cheese Giant Slide put me within spitting distance of Saz’s and those Deep Fried Bread Pudding Bites I had my eye on. There would be no spitting though – these puppies were tasty vittles. Crunchy on the outside, soft and pudding-y on the inside (always great to combine textures in my book). I won’t pretend I know what the exact flavors and spices were (vanilla, nutmeg, caramel perhaps) – but you can take my word for it – these are a great dessert choice this year at the fair. And they do get Glamour Shots treatment. 

A Cranberry Cookie for the kids and a Billie’s Special Baked Potato for the adults were enough to put us into that full and hot feeling where nothing more good can happen. So, we made plans to leave the fair; but not before grabbing a three pack of cream puffs to-go and getting those requisite every-trip deep fried cheese curds for the mile long walk back the car. Fresh out of the fryer curds aren’t really the best choice for walking across the hot asphalt Milwaukee Mile race track – sun beating down. But its key to keep that blood thin and pumping when you’re eating like that – so why not. 


*you’re welcome sweet fair, you’re welcome. 

Next trip tentatively planned for Monday 8/8. 

Breaking News! (2016 Wisconsin State Fair related of course)

I was writing up a blog post about my training regimen to prepare for the fair tomorrow when Tara and I were blindsided by the most amazing news you could possibly imagine. I can barely type anymore I’m so excited. Here’s the message we just got from @wistatefair:

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And here’s some more info on the 2016 Sporkies in case you’re interested (you definitely should be). Come see us judge these amazing new food entries Wednesday, August 10th at 11am!

This is the culmination of all our deliciously hard work eating our way through the Fair for the last 12 years together (and blogging about it here for 5+). Seriously, in order of amazing things it goes, birth of kids, getting married, being named a Sporkies judge.

Off to the fair in 12 hours!!!

Wisconsin State Fair Preview

Holy blue ribbon cow crap, we’re just a week away from the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair! The wind is changing, the skies are bluer, and my hands are shaking with excitement – the deep fried summer solstice of food season is finally upon us. (Note: for those not familiar, food season is actually a full 12 months long and is celebrated each year with an 11 day festival known as the Wisconsin State Fair.)

My thoughts on the approach of the fair and all it has to offer are best described by the opening line of R Kelly’s 1994 hit song Bump n’ Grind:

My mind is, in fact, telling me no; binge eating fair food is a terrible idea for my waistline, cholesterol levels, my ability to sit upright after a day at the fair and probably my overall long term health. But my body, my body is definitely telling me yes. Yes to eating until I can’t eat anymore, until I can barely walk back to the car, until I bite into that wood stick in the center of whatever delightful food surrounds it.

And the best place to start things off is with the new food list.

My top 5 new targets this year are as follows:

  1. Mac Bottom Pizza: Deep-fried, homemade mac n’ cheese bottomed pizza – completely crustless! Topped with homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and sausage. At Brew City. No commentary needed on this one – its goodness should be self explanatory.
  2. Deep-Fried Corn on the Cob:  Beer-battered, deep-fried corn on the cob is served on-a-stick. Choice of seven different seasonings. At Adeline’s Corn. Corn on the cob is a rare state fair classic that isn’t deep fried. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT SHOULD’T BE! Kudos to this idea.
  3. SPAM Curds:  Diced SPAM with cheese that has been breaded and deep fried to a golden brown and served with ranch dressing. At SPAM. There are several things at work here – good things. One, Spam is popular in Hawaii, Hawaii is awesome, therefore Spam is great; I believe this is called the transitive property of equality – it’s math and/or logic so it must be true. B., one of the best free (or paid for that matter) museums I’ve ever been to is the Spam Museum in Austin, MN – it might be the best thing about MN. And thirdly. this just fits the bill as something that belongs inside of me.
  4. Deep-Fried Bread Pudding Bites On-a-Stick:  Homemade, old world bread pudding rolled in a vanilla custard batter, deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Served on a stick with a side of our smoked sea salt caramel dipping sauce. At Saz’s Ribs. I used to think Bread Pudding was gross – soggy bread, bleh –  but it’s actually really tasty and obviously deep frying it could only make it better. 
  5. Beercicles: Homemade PBR beer popsicles available in flavors such as Citrus Shandy, Pabst Blue Raspberry and Not Your Father’s Root Beer Floatcicle. At Slim’s PBR Park. Sometimes you need to cool off at the fair, and this seems like an excellent way to do that. Plus, PBR!

This list is just the start. Hoping for good weather and short lines! See you next week.

 

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Guest Post – Tara’s Take

When Adam asked me to “guest post” about the fair, I started thinking, “How did I get to this point?” How did I go from being a fairly normal individual, who, at most, only gave the fair a second thought once a year while it was going on – to being someone who you could call a “fair addict”, constantly jonesing for that next sweet fair fix. The answer is, Adam. Adam has done this damage to me, or maybe we’ve fed off of each other year after year, constantly trying to one up each other to the point where we both have a raging addiction. It’s a vicious, yet delicious, cycle. So, here are my WI State Fair observations for this year…

 

The fair is such a fascinating atmosphere. I’ve never been anywhere else, where I’ve witnessed such an insane grouping of people. No matter what gender, size, race, age….everyone looks like a rabid jackass while devouring a cream puff. And maybe it’s that simple fact that brings everyone together in harmony. Could cream puffs be the key to world peace? Yes, yes they can! We can’t judge one another while we’re all covered a thin layer of sweat and powdered sugar.
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And speaking of powdered sugar…those food booth carnie’s really need to hire a proof reader before printing a giant sign that will be displayed prominently on the front of your booth. Unless of course, you are in fact advertising “POWERED SUGAR”, which does sound enticing.
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But, back to cream puffs, seriously, whoever designed these things was a real jerk. I already have a hard time eating messy things in public, but cream puffs take it to another level, by making you look like to just went on a cocaine bender. These reasons are why I choose to take my cream puff home and devour it in private.

Back to the beginning. We like entering the fair through the “Tunnel Entrance”, mostly because it’s the closest entrance to where we park, but I also like it because it’s such a grand and dramatic entrance.
IMG_7798_2 You have to walk down through this giant dungeon like tunnel, and then – wait! You see the light! You’re almost there! The humidity is gaining…and then…you’re there! You are shot into the fair crowd where you are immersed into a sea of B.O. and heat. I also like that this entrance has a GIANT sign that says “TUNNEL EXIT”, it’s like the fair personnel knew that hoards of people at the end of the night would be too drunk to remember where they parked, so they gave them a giant reminder.
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The fair this year was as perfect as ever. I always appreciate the fact that people look into their closets when choosing what outfit to wear to the fair, and they usually end up picking the one thing that should never see the light of day. I get that it’s insanely hot out, but there is a time and a place where you should wear nothing but extra tight bike shorts. And that place is hell.
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I was extra excited about the fair this year, because last year during the fair I was stuck in what seemed like an endless pit of morning sickness that wouldn’t quit. Not only could I not enjoy the delicious fair food, but I couldn’t enjoy any BEER. Sad. So, I made up for lost time by indulging in what could only be described as a “butt load” of beer. My favorites were beermosas at the Micro, and an Eastside Dark beer float at the Lakefront tent. I could go on about the the tasty food I enjoyed, but I’ll let Adam share his food expertise on that subject. My favorites though, were The ‘donut breakfast sandwich’, ‘truffle tots’, and ‘smoked gouda fries’.

Some other interesting observations I had at the fair this year are as follows:
CORN CAGE. Why do the workers at New Berlin corn sit in a cage whilst selling corn? Are they being punished? I feel like I’m the one being punished, because they can never hear me through the cage, and I’m forced to yell my order at them like a lunatic.
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WINE TASTING. Nothing quite says “high class wine tasting” than the light purple and beige color scheme they have goin’ on at the Wisconsin Wine Tasting building. Fine wine should only be enjoyed under harsh florescent lights. Except wait, fine wines are not called: ‘Hot Mess’.
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CREAM PUFF ZOO. I’ve always enjoyed how the cream puff workers are on display like zoo animals.
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I also like that when you see a “Team Cream Puff” employee out on the grounds, it’s like seeing an animal in the wild. You keep your distance, and proceed with caution.
SWEET SHIRTS. Seriously, I will pay someone good money to get my hands on one of the Giant Slide t-shirts that the workers wear. So simple, it’s perfect. If I wasn’t too scared to appear to be a creeper by asking one of the teenagers for his shirt, I would. So many booths have amazing shirts (Sheboygan Brat House, Fresh Fries, Hot WI cheese), why doesn’t the fair cash in on this? Am I the only one who wants one of these shirts? Anyone? Bueller?

 

In conclusion, the fair is a magical place. So magical in fact, that it’s the only time in which West Allis is the shining jewel of Wisconsin. And it’s the only place on earth that I don’t mind the stank of ripe cow dung baking in the late summer sun. Ahh, I can already smell it now, only 350 days to go…

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 5 (Final Trip)

I’ve finally recovered enough to write and post this entry on our last trip to the fair. The weather tested our love for the fair on Day 5. It was hot. Hot and humid. Boooooo. Would we still go? How could we not? We didn’t even say goodbye the last time. But I hate heat and humidity. It makes me want to die. It makes me claustrophobic when I’m standing in an empty field – alone. So to walk into that fiery furnace of a fair on Sunday- shoulder to shoulder with people all shapes and sizes (some more prevalent than others) it literally took my breath away. Seriously, half way through our first food of the day – whilst enjoying beers at the Micro, I started having a mild asthma attack (not completely medically out of the question for me but mostly unprecedented). Maybe I was allergic to the Parmesan Truffle TotsIMG_5857(But they were too tasty to stop eating regardless of how my histamines felt.) Or maybe the scent of barnyard feces shrunk my breathing passages. I guess it could have been the heat, the humidity, possibly a panic attack wondering what I’d eat for the next 352 days; I don’t know what it was but it felt like a Clydesdale was standing on my chest. Tara kept telling me we should just go home – to which I replied something along the lines of, “what are you, stupid?” (through short shallow breaths). Instead of leaving, I did what any responsible adult would do, I rationalized. I figured I just needed to wash down whatever was doing this to me with some more food. One beer battered brat on a stick later (I had a coupon) and that theory seemed less sensical than it had a few minutes earlier – it didn’t work at all. But we pressed on and found respite from the heat in the oddly-less-crowded-than-usual and delightfully air conditioned expo center. I suggested to Tara that I lie down near this tombstone looking thing:IMG_2225But who knows what that black carpet is hiding…actually I feel like I do, I’m no stranger to the fair after all, and I didn’t want e coli or hep c. Anyway, I started finding my lungs somewhere between German Glue and Master Spas. Thank goodness. We passed by some interesting booths (as always) and I especially liked the salsa booth with dozens of signs telling passerby to “Ask 4 Chips!”

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Man how I wanted to see someone just walk up and stick their finger right in a jar – thereby completely justifying signs that should’ve gone without saying. On the other hand, why not just have chips out? Like everywhere else – ever. Were people stealing chips? Can you imagine? I could just picture dude with 18” corndog in one hand walking past and grabbing a handful. F@#$ salsa, I just really want some stale chips from that basket everyone else at the fair has had their hands in. Having to settle for imagining all these scenarios instead of witnessing them we moved on and back out into the inferno we went.
It had been 15-20 minutes since I last ate so I insisted that we hunt down some new eats ASAP. We remembered mention of “Beer Cheese” on a sign near the tunnel entrance and like a zombie searches out brains, we Walking Deaded ourselves over that way. That Miller Lite Pavilion was where it was at and you could get it on mostly anything on the menu (and believe me – I would have). We chose the loaded chips which turned out to be a nice variation of nachos – using crispy kettle chips as the base instead of the tortilla variety. They were tasty, filling and reasonably priced.
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We moved on with our New Foods list and State Fair Map in hand, trying desperately to find Fried Fruit on a Stick – I couldn’t even tell you what for anymore – but all that matters is that we didn’t find it. Instead we did find this banner of Tara eating at the fair (or so it appeared…weird!)
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Where’s the commission checks? Or at least that sweet shirt!?
My mind was torn about leaving at this point (just about as much as my shorts were about to be if I kept eating like this) but I thought – one last hurrah. So back to the Machine Shed for an ol’ reliable deep fried PB&J on a stick.
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We thought we’d get one last beer and give killing a keg one more chance. It didn’t happen but I did drink some delightful Leinenkugels special fair beer – not sure what it was called but it hit the spot.
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If things seem like they’re getting fuzzy at this point – they were (alcohol had nothing to do with it, but gluttony and oppressive heat did). We were both feeling the weight of the day on our sad shoulders. Our conversation turned slightly weird at this point,
Tara:  “I wish we had rascals to drive around in.”
Adam:  “I wish it was a tandem so you could just drive” (because at this point even driving myself around the fair would be apparently too much)
Tara:  “Yeah, we’ll do it when we’re old, then I can just bust into people so they get out of our way”
Adam:  “Then I can just shrug and say, ‘women drivers’ and people will think it’s kinda cute cause I’ll be old.”
It was somewhere around this time where we decided it was time to go to leave the fair and walk through that tunnel exit for the last time in 2015.
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As we walked out through the track I looked back and saw a few hundred people in the grandstand waiting to see Kenny Rogers – I wondered how they got their rascals up the bleachers and if Kenny Rogers would sing from one as well. I kind of wanted to stay. But then a fresh wave of heat and exhaustion fell over me and I thought to myself, it’s probably better that the fair is only 11 days long – to paraphrase the inimitable Rogers – I knew it was time to fold ’em. See you next year!
PS Check back tomorrow for a very special fair themed guest post by Tara

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 2

Half of my wish came true for our 2nd trip to the fair – we left Ellis with the Grandparents and headed to the fair a lot lighter on baggage – with just 5 year old Beckett in tote. It’s the little things that make all the difference when you’re a parent.

But seriously, we took Beckett to the fair to see the pups from Paw Patrol! (Can you feel the excitement in my typing!?) We arrived to the Paw Patrol Trailer (straight from Adventure Bay) right at 10am – when things were supposed to get started.

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Every parent/kid in State Fair park was making a bee-line for the same spacious 20×20 alcove between the pigs and goats. Awesome. Amid the mass confusion we jumped right into line. Some further investigation determined the pups wouldn’t be out until 11:15 but never fear,some other stupid kid stuff would be happening ( Little Charmers, Chubby Puppies and Sick Bricks; whatever those are.) As much fun as that other stuff sounded, we told Beckett we’d come back in an hour for the main event…Poor kid reluctantly followed us away as I promised he could pick out whatever he wanted to eat.

But first, a little breakfast for mom and dad. Breakfast tots and Beermosa’s. Tara noted the presentation of the tots was nicely done.  They weren’t all show and no go either (they were really tasty). I went off script for my Beermosa and chose a Leinekugel’s Big Eddy series Royal Nektar – a strong mead style beer. It’s just what I needed to think about going back to Paw Patrol.

TIP: Visiting the Micro before noon is a great idea, not just for the Beermosa’s but for the serene, less crowded atmosphere as well. 

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Next we headed over to the WI Product Pavilion where I took Beckett to the apple stand to get a delicious treat. Caramel Apple? Apple Cider Donut perhaps? No, he wanted one of the normal real apples (natural-form food at the Fair???) from the decorative bushel of apples. I asked the girl if we could buy one and she said sure. It’s not often you try to convince your kid not to eat healthy.

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With some more time to kill before Paw Patrol, we stopped for some more healthy food – albeit dipped in butter and covered in salt this time.

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Isn’t she lovely?

Tara and Beckett headed back over to get in line for Paw Patrol while I detoured for a donut grilled cheese:

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By cutting the donut in half and grilling the inside, it not only keeps your fingers clean but also ensures the delicious glaze mixes with the melty cheese for sweet and cheesy delight (coincidentally that’s how I’d describe a date with me if I ever had to sign up for an online dating site. Please though Tara, don’t make that a reality as I’m suddenly doubting that line would work).

So back to Paw Patrol – as I approached I saw a frenzied line of parents and kids flanked by State Fair cops – this wasn’t going to be good. They were already blocking the end of the line telling people they’d never make it in time. Whaaaat? Well, Paw Patrol would only be out for 25 minutes and then again at 1:15. COooool. You’re there for 50 minutes out of the day to meet with 50000 rabid fairgoers – those stupid pups might as well join the other animals and take a giant dump right in front of us. But anyway, we told Beckett he’d have to settle for just seeing them and I hoisted him up on my shoulders for a decent view of Marshall and Chase. A promise of a new Paw Patrol toy from the store later seemed to satisfy him well enough (and we walked away as I felt oddly suckered by a bunch of fictional rescue dogs).

The rest of the fair included:

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More milk (of course)

IMG_2154Breakfast pizza and real cherry slush. Yum and yum.

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Cranberry cookie. Nice.

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Surf and Turf (beer battered, deep fried, bacon wrapped shrimp – I love when you have to describe it with multiple commas). Very rich, but delicious.

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Chocolate Banana (for Tara) and chocolate dipped, sprinkle covered, sugar cookie dough (for me – not pictured because I don’t have an x-ray machine).

A trip down to the midway for Beckett proved to teach him a valuable life lesson I learned only much later in life. Milk before rides, clears yours insides. Tara whisked him off the spinning bears just in time for me to get him to the cleanest stall I could find where he screamed “it’s gonna stink and it’s gonna hurt!” He was at least half right from what I could tell.

With that out of the way our day at the fair wound down.

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Come back soon for the Day 3 recap.

 

2015 Wisconsin State Fair:  Day 1

A fair day at the fair:

We had high hopes for the first day of the fair (see triumphant entrance below)

 Unfortunately hot, crowded, and stressed wasn’t just how I’d describe my intestines. Turns out having two kids along at the fair can put a real dent in previously well intended plans. And if you’re reading this someday kids; I wouldn’t trade you for all the curds in dairyland, but I might try to leave you home next time.

I can and should partly blame myself – leaving the diapers/changer in the trunk a couple Milwaukee Miles away wasn’t especially helpful to our situation. I might have been too caught up in fair prepping and excitement but that’s no excuse. Thanks to my wife (and props to mother’s everywhere) for constantly being on top of all that stuff. I can only blame the cream puff between my ears and/or the corndog between…well, let’s just blame my gender. Maybe if I identified as the fairer of the species I’d be better at that stuff (hell, maybe I’d even win an Espy).

But back to the fair. It wasn’t all bad. Starting your day w/ some pre-noon deep fried cheese curds and washing them down with Beermosas from The Micro is an excellent idea. We tried a Point Ciderboys Peach Country base and a Sprecher Grapefruit Raddler one as well. Both awesome.

Next, we headed over to the newly rebranded Bucks Milk House:

 On the way there I slammed my Beermosa to make room in the stroller’s limited cupholders for as many milks as possible. They’ve changed the lineup pretty significantly this year w/ the flavor lineup consisting of Banana Cream Pie, Strawberries & Cream, Orange Creamsicle, Chocolate Cream Pie, and Creamy Root Beer. We get it, milk is creamy – please ditch the cream in the names. That being said, they’re all still 25 cents and they all still taste good. Beckett continues to grow in his Milktitude (aptitude for milk drinking) and was very reluctant to share any of his 3 flavors with me.

 My disappointment was outweighed by my pride for him.

Being full of fluid but light on food we headed to the Machine Shed and I shelled out a crisp Hamilton for the top of the line 50/50 burger topped w/ a Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Nugget. This is the burger made of a half ground beef and half ground bacon.

 Unfortunately the cheddar nugget and pretzel bun were the only good things about this. I don’t know how you can make something worse by adding bacon but you’ve done it again Machine Shed! (1st time was the limp chocolate covered bacon) You should be ashamed of yourselves. The burger patty was more akin to one of the “premium” leather wallets you can buy all over the fair grounds than anything resembling meat. I swallowed my disappointment along with the last piece (it was $10 after all) and we moved on.

A disappointing cup (yes, inexplicably it was served in a little cup) of Duke’s Poutine – supposedly Quebec style – was the only other food of note from this 1st day of the fair.

So as you can see, my sweat wasn’t the only thing leaving me feeling salty on Day 1. But, there are 10 days left and plenty of food yet to be tried. I’m hoping for better days ahead.