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Fried, dipped or charred, the fair has food for all

Cooky Sawyers readies his booth signs for advertising at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. Sawyers has been involved in fair concessions for 51 years.  - Seraine Page
Cooky Sawyers readies his booth signs for advertising at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. Sawyers has been involved in fair concessions for 51 years.
— image credit: Seraine Page

There’s just something about greasy, unhealthy fair food that everyone loves.

For those looking for healthy options, it won’t be found at the 2013 Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. But if you’re in the mood for 22-inch long hotdogs or deep fried Oreos, the county fair is just the place to be.

The menu is seemingly never ending with choices like shaved ice, tart lemonade, cheesy nachos, greasy burgers and fluffy cotton candy being served up from mini food trucks, tiny tents and open-air booths.

“To get the best corn dog, you don’t go to 7/11,” said Bernard Lind, who owns Lind’s Concessions and uses his dad’s original 1949 carnival corn dog recipe. “It is a special type of food you can’t get anywhere else.”

Lind proudly claims he was raised in the concession business and worked alongside his dad to learn the secret recipe that made fair food so tasty. He’s so dedicated in fact, that he and his wife spend most of their time on the road. At one point and time they were spending 46 weeks a year on the road traveling to various rodeos, fairs and carnivals. It got to be too much, so the pair  cut down to 31 weeks a year. Despite still spending a lot of time on the road, Lind said he still loves what he does and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I get a kick out of the innocent kids. They’re just having so much fun. Seeing how happy I made that family (is the best part),” he said. “Fairs and parades are the two things that haven’t changed much in our society.”

Although corn dogs are his claim to fame, Lind also will sell funnel cakes, fried zucchini and cauliflower during the fair. For those with room for dessert, he’ll offer frozen chocolate-covered bananas and root beer floats from his A&W stand.

If there’s another common denominator in the fair concession industry other than grease, it’s the fact that it is generally a family affair.

Sean Erickson of Crazy Eric’s, runs an indoor fair stand with his dad and brother. He can still remember wiping off tables starting around the age of five or six. Most of the vendors that surround his booth are the same ones who come year after year, he said.

“It’s fun. You get to see a lot of people you only see once a year,” he said. “Everybody seems to be in a good mood when they’re at the fair.”

The family serves up their signature onion burgers, which many just refer to as “the fair burger” employee David Wieland said.

Along with their famed burger, the Kitsap County family serves up parmesan fries, corn dogs and french fries along with the usual favored soft drinks. Whether it’s the sugar or atmosphere, everybody has a good time when it comes to the fair, especially when the focus is often on enjoying food that only comes around once a year, the owner said.

“There’s a lot of unique items you can’t get anywhere else,” said Erickson. “There’s no shortage of food; there’s something for everybody.”

And if the vendors aren’t family, they’re close enough as Cooky Sawyers will tell folks.

He’s been in the business for 51 years, and he never gets tired of the joy of offering families their favorite fair food. His father had several food eateries in the 1960s, and his family often went on the road to various events where they sold food like curly fries and hotdogs. Currently, he’s paired up with an old friend after they ran into each other after years of being out of touch. The two decided to tote around Penny Lynn’s Crazy Fazzt Food, which used to be Hazel’s Diner, named after Penny’s mom.

“You gotta be crazy to do this your whole life,” he said. “This is what we do…people think it’s easy money. It’s not.”

He and Penny average 17 to 19 shows a year, mainly in Washington State. He said the weather in Kitsap County this time of year is perfect and a warm welcome and change to the normally humid climates he’s experienced at previous stops. The cooler climate is a treat for the two who generally sleep in the back of their aged red van where a well-worn air mattress fits snugly.

This year the duo will serve up grilled salmon, teriyaki bowls and their famous 22-inch hotdogs that he promises will feed a family of four.

As for why people consume the very unhealthy, not-good-for-your-heart food, Sawyers has just one comment that sums it up: “You can’t get it anywhere else.”

 

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