Summer time means it is fair and festival season in Wisconsin. Whether you enjoy strolling through the barns of award-winning livestock, taking in some of the great entertainment booked at these events, or riding in the thrilling midway, one thing just about everyone loves to do is eat. And that’s where you’ll discover the bounty of delicious foods and flavors produced here in Wisconsin.
It wouldn’t be the Wisconsin State Fair without something “on-a-stick”. One of my favorites is a pork chop on-a-stick, served up by the Wisconsin Pork Producers. As a youth exhibitor, I recall working several hours every summer in the Dane County Pork Producers’ Pork Shack to serve up “The Other White Meat®.” Growing up on my family’s farm and having pigs as fair projects, I was taught that quality is very important to the market industry. One pork chop serving is a great way to get protein into your diet. One chop has more than 20 grams of protein and can be paired with some great Wisconsin cranberry chutney or horseradish.
Cheese curds are a popular summer snack enjoyed at fairs and festivals. Fresh or fried, I am always on the hunt at the fair for these bite-sized squeaky treats! Cheddar or mozzarella, Wisconsin has over 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese to enjoy. It takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. A gallon of milk weighs about eight pounds, so that’s just a little over one gallon of milk per pound of cheese.
Don’t forget the popcorn. While touring Rural Route 1 Popcorn near Platteville, I learned that there are two types of popcorn – snowflake and mushroom – which are named because of their shape. Snowflake popcorn is what we find at fairs and festivals; mushroom popcorn is used with flavorings because it is sturdier. You can’t beat the taste of popcorn with a little Wisconsin butter and a sprinkle of salt. Or try something special by adding some cheese or maple syrup.
Speaking of something special, there has been a new addition to the box of Original Cream Puffs® at this year’s Wisconsin State Fair: The “Something Special from Wisconsin™” logo. This logo means at least half of that cream puff shell filled with dairy goodness has ingredients from, or was produced here, in Wisconsin. Cream puffs are a fair and festival favorite, but you can only get the Original Cream Puff® at the State Fair. Last year, the Wisconsin State Fair Park Dairy Bakery sold 355,478 cream puffs and set a Guinness World Record for the “World’s Largest Cream Puff,” weighing in at 125.6 pounds!
Cotton candy is nothing new, but have you ever tried maple sugar cotton candy? Now there’s a sweet Wisconsin treat. Made from pure, natural, granulated sugars tapped from our Wisconsin maple trees and sugar bushes, this is a sweet reminder of Ferris wheels, roller coasters and summer fun. Marathon County is the highest maple syrup producing county in Wisconsin.
Buying Wisconsin products at a fair or festival is a great way to support our Wisconsin farmers, communities and the economy. And while you’re at the fair, keep an eye out for booths run by 4-H or FFA clubs. These organizations help empower young agriculturalists who will be the next generation to feed the world. Many fairs feature auctions of livestock animals or Wisconsin products. Bid high and bid often to benefit these youth and great organizations.
Wisconsin is known for a variety of food flavors– cheese, sauerkraut, specialty meats, cherries, berries and whole lot more. Get out and “Taste Wisconsin” with your family at the fairs and festivals this summer! Wisconsin agriculture has something for everyone. For more information about the flavors at Wisconsin fairs and festivals, visit SavorWisconsin.com or TravelWisconsin.com to plan a “Wis-cation.”
Rochelle Ripp is the 65th Alice in Dairyland and the daughter of a fourth generation farmer. Prior to fulfilling her Dairyland duties, she worked at Madison’s Filament Marketing, a firm focused on agriculture. She is from Lodi, Wisconsin. Connect with Alice in Dairyland on Twitter at twitter.com/alice_dairyland.
Photos courtesy of The Wisconsin State Fair