Get the best food…
MY NUMBER ONE STATE FAIR TIP:
1) Timing is everything.
If you want the best food a vendor has to offer, be willing to get up early or be willing to wait. Everything is fresh right when the gates open so your best bet is to get there early and tackle your favorites right away. If it is painful to get up early, be ready to wait in line. If there isn’t a line the food is likely old and you shouldn’t be eating it. Period.
Most people think convenience: I am nearby so I will get it. If you truly want the best food: find their peak time, wait for them to make a fresh batch, or ask for a new one. It can make or break your fair food experience.
2) Don’t order food that the vendor doesn’t specialize in.
You wouldn’t order sushi from McDonalds, don’t order a corn dog from a slushy maker. Only order the one item that vendor specializes in. If they don’t have a “top selling item” think twice before placing your order.
3) Speak up.
If your food isn’t cooked properly, RETURN IT. I returned at least 6 different foods that were undercooked. (GROSS!) The vendors want to make you happy and you shouldn’t be stuck with a half-cooked item. If your food isn’t perfect, get a new one.
4) Don’t judge a vendor by their booth.
Some of the best foods I have tried have come from the most generic looking vendors. If you know you want to try what they are offering, go for it. If it ends up being a flop, you can always get your other standby option.
5) Keep an eye out for deals
Most of the vendors I visited on “Thrifty Thursday” didn’t even know what their deal was. Pay attention to what you expect to pay and ask about deals. I showed the discount to several of the vendors for proof. $2.00 in savings adds up quickly when you have a whole day in front of you. Also watch for coupon books. Most vendors have signs posted, but if you forget, I found that most will give you your money back if you present them with the coupon shortly after your purchase.
6) Avoid Deals
First decide if you want it, then look for a coupon. A lot of the time the fair’s best foods don’t have deals: cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s, Pronto Pups, etc. Don’t order something just because you have a coupon or because it is a bonus buy. I made that mistake several times and should have stuck with the original vendor and not the vendor with the coupon.
7) Consider if it is available outside the fair
After eating everything on-a-stick it was always a disappointment to be served something that I can get some where else for half the price. Think: is this pre-packaged? Can I get it once the fair is over? (Lollipops, cotton candy, regular popcorn, regular kabobs, popsicles, Icee, etc.) Is this food unique or different?
1) Don’t pay for parking.
You are a fool if you pay to park. There are tons of ways to get to the fair FOR FREE: bike, bus, walk, run, or drive and find street parking. You are going to be walking around all day at the fair, is $20 to park a couple blocks closer really worth saving those extra steps. Don’t be silly. Yes, time is money, but taking a shuttle into the new transit hub will add 20 extra minutes to your day.
2) Say hello and don’t be afraid to go alone.
People love to talk. Everyone wants to be acknowledged: vendors, kids, volunteers, etc. Saying hello opens up the door to so many conversations. Even if you don’t want to talk, a simple smile will let the person know you appreciate their work. It’s easy and leaves them in a better mood for the next person they encounter. You can have a completely different fair experience if you just say hello. Trust me, going alone forces you to be friendly, and all the laughs outweighed all the awkward moments.
3) Have a plan ahead of time so you are don’t have to wander back and fourth all day.
When you visit in a group, have a plan. Find out what everyone wants to do and strategize. If you don’t discuss what you want to do ahead of time, you could end up walking miles more than you meant to.
4) Take out money before you arrive.
This is an easy one, but everyone always forgets. Almost all vendors are cash only and money goes quickly. Take out more than you need and disperse it evenly (a little in your pocket, some to your husband, some in your purse). You will be covered if you drop something.
5) Wear real shoes.
Sure your sandals are cute and your heels go better with your dress, but walking in the barns with open toed shoes is gross and dropping ketchup on your toes is grosser yet. Be practical, wear sneakers and avoid a painful recovery.
6) Visit the buildings early.
By noon, all the buildings are muggy and gross. If you want to see them all head to the Grandstand first and go from there. They get packed and it gets so hot ,everyone seems on edge.