Food from near and far delights fairgoers

HARRINGTON — Roughly consistent with last year, the 2017 Delaware State Fair is playing host to 45 different food vendors spread out over 75 food stands throughout the fairgrounds. When it comes time to fill out the list of vendors, recruiting is a combination of staff reaching out to specific vendors and being approached by others, said Danny Aguilar, the fair’s Assistant General Manager.

“Interested vendors will fill out applications for consideration and we have a selection process so we don’t end up with too many pizza or funnel cake stands and have a nice mix of unique foods and other options,” said Mr. Aguilar. “We always look for unique vendors, but we also ensure they have a high quality product and stand and that they have good references from other fairs they’ve worked.”

The event has much of the traditional fairground fare you’d expect to see such as Hawaiian shaved ice, corn dogs, sirloin tips, pizza, sausage and just about anything you can drizzle nacho cheese on. But, there are some options for the adventurous such as deep fried cookie dough, funnel cake burgers and shark kebabs. One vendor specializing in exotic options is Cameron Murray, owner of Chester’s Gators and Taters. Mr. Murray, originally from North Carolina has set up his stand at the fair for the last six years.

“Our most popular items are usually our Alligator kebabs and our gator mac and cheese,” he said. “What I usually end up eating for lunch though is our chicken. It’s grilled and healthy and we have a really good homemade marinade we use on it that makes it to die for.”

Starting in June and going till November, Mr. Murray hits 12 fairs from New York to Florida. Everything he needs to serve food has to be with him at all times, so he’s built quite a convoy over the years.

Lee Cordova with Chester’s Gators & Taters holds a bowl on MacAttack at the Delaware State Fair on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We have to have a semi freezer truck, so total we have three trucks and four trailers — one truck actually pulls two,” he said. “All the alligator we serve comes out of Florida and the shark comes from several different places along the east coast. At any given time we’ll have 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of alligator meat with us — I get shipments in throughout the year.”

Mr. Murray started his season in New Jersey — Delaware being his second stop. He said the two fairs tend to be the hottest on his route which can sometimes cripple people’s appetites, especially for anything fried or grilled.

“The cooler the fair, the better.” he said. “It’s been hot which has slowed people down, but next week is looking better. Generally, Delaware is a really good fair. We have some higher volume fairs that we serve at, but the expenses are higher. I always have a lot of fun here through because I’ve made some friends over the years. I even visit them during the off season.”

The fair opened in back to back 90 degree, sunny weather. The forecast for next week predicts more cloudy days in the mid-80s in the Harrington area. Fair officials noted that for a 20-foot food stand space rental, vendors usually pay around $100 to $150 per day.

Local fare at the fair

Although many of the vendors are from out of state, Mr. Aguilar said an effort to include a good number of local vendors is always made.

“I don’t know the exact split between local and out-of-towner vendors, but I’d say it’s roughly balanced,” he noted. “A lot of our local vendors who have long standing relationships with us have permanent stands that they return to every year like the Harrington Moose Lodge and Delaware State Grange.”

Julia Close hold a Scrapple sandwich at Kirby and Holloway’s stand at the Delaware State Fair on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Harrington’s own Kirby and Holloway, a manufacturer of country style sausage and scrapple established in 1947, has had a permanent food stand at the fair since the late 80s Kara Kirby said.

“My husband Rudy owns the company, and his father actually sat on the state fair board for a long time as well,” she said.

Mrs. Kirby said the big seller for their booth has been, and usually is, their scrapple.

“The scrapple is a good seller especially in the morning with our breakfasts — we’re one of the few stands open early,” she said. “We’re usually serving folks from the barns and the exhibitors by 7 a.m. before the gates open. We have a new option we call ‘The Trough’ which is scrapple, sausage, bacon, egg and cheese on a roll.”

To stay stocked during the fair, Mrs. Kirby said that they ship in about 1,000 pounds of scrapple and roughly 2,000 pounds of their sausages. Recently, they’ve seen the amount of money they make at the fair slump a bit, but there is value in the exposure she said.

“It’s been a decent moneymaker in the past, but it has gotten a bit slower lately,” she said. “It’s really nice to just be here though because a big part of it is getting our product our in front of people because and we sell to both restaurants and grocery stores. People try our stuff here and look for it in the store — and we’re from right here in Harrington.”

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