Will it be ice cream? Comfort food? A refreshing drink? Or stuff on a stick? And how do those fair food categories tie in with the Indiana State Fair’s “Year of the Coliseum” theme?
After a one-year hiatus, the fair is bringing back its signature food contest with the theme of “reconstructed/deconstructed” in honor of the newly renovated Coliseum.
“This is a fun way to kind of kick off the fair for us, ” said Indiana State Fair public relations director Andy Klotz, “because we tie it in with the year-of theme. And everybody came up with kind of a creative way to take an old fair food and reconstruct it this year in honor of the Year of the Coliseum.”
Five food vendors were selected as finalists, and a tasting panel was convened to sample the five options. I was happy to be on the panel, which also included Indiana State Fair Queen Alyssa Garnett, IUPUI men’s head basketball coach Jason Gardner, WFMS morning show host Kevin Freeman, WJJK morning show host Greg Browning and WJJK afternoon show host Nikki Miller. You’ll be able to vote online on the WJJK website.
The signature food entries included the Cheeseburger Basket on a Stick from Barto’s Catering — imagine a ground beef and cheddar cheese meatball wrapped in hash browns, breaded in panko and deep fried. So you get the cheeseburger, the potato, the bread — and it’s on a stick (although for the tasting, we used little forks).
The Mac Daddy from Gobble Gobble food truck — this one was like a barbecue turkey sandwich and a side of macaroni and cheese, only without the bun. So you get a serving of Gobble Gobble’s creamy mac and cheese topped with smoky, pulled turkey.
Funnel Cake Ice Cream Sandwich from Urick Concessions — mini funnel cakes and soft-serve vanilla ice cream create this “reconstructed” ice cream sandwich.
The Colossal Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a Salted Chocolate Caramel Shake from the American Dairy Association — mozzarella sticks are added to the Dairy Bar’s classic grilled cheese, and the deal also includes a chocolate shake with salted caramel (plus a nifty color-changing spoon).
The Fruit Twister Shake-up from Goodwin Family Products — made with oranges, pineapple and fresh strawberries, this is a fresh fruit alternative to the classic lemon shake-up.
All five of the finalists will be available for fair-goers to try during the fair’s Aug. 1-17 run.
“People will be able to come out and get every one of the five finalists in the competition,” said Klotz. “But one of them will be determined as the signature food of the Indiana State Fair this year, and so they’ll get bragging rights for the year.”
Starting Monday, June 23, the public can go to the WJJK website and vote for their favorite.
“We will post photos and our judges comments from June 23 up until July 6,” said Klotz. “People can go to the WJJK website, and they can see the comments, look at the foods and decide what they think would be the best to represent the fair this year.” — Jolene Ketzenberger