Unique Foods at State Fairs

Kevin Feather
| September 1, 2023 | 4 Minute Read
Guiliana Moreno

Each U.S. state and many of the states’ counties have been holding annual fairs since the 19th century. Fairs began as a way to promote a state’s agriculture and to provide competitive exhibitions of livestock, crops and eventually prepared foods – think of all those cherry pies!

As America moved away from an agricultural society to an industrial—and now information—society, the state fair has evolved with the times. Today, many feature amusement rides, car racing, musical concerts and, of course, a collection of iconic state fair food.

New fair food

We’re going to give you the 411 on some of our favorite new fair foods that we saw in the 2023 state fair season, plus information about these highlighted state fairs so you don’t miss out on any of the fun—or the food—next time! This year, we’re shining a light on the Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Iowa and Minnesota state fairs.

Turkey legs at a fair.

Colorado State Fair foods: Giant Turkey Legs

The Colorado State Fair had lots of delicious foods to make taste buds tingle. Upon passing through the ground’s gates, visitors were greeted by the amazing smells of classic fair treats. Naturally, there are the traditional favorites like yummy corn dogs, cotton candy and caramel popcorn to remind you of fun times as a kid. But if you're hungry for something more filling, the fair had tasty traditional barbecue, tender smoked meats and juicy burgers with lots of tasty toppings.

The new fair foods for 2023 highlighted the local flavors using Colorado's best ingredients, like fresh fruits and vegetables and tasty artisan cheeses. Many made sure to take a bite out of the famous turkey legs, a timeless staple of the Colorado State Fair.

This year’s fair ran from August 25 through September 4, 2023.

Paulette's Salted Caramel Turtle Funnel Cake at the Georgia State Fair Photo courtesy: Georgia National Fairgrounds

Georgia National Fair foods: Salted Caramel Turtle Funnel Cake

The 2023 Georgia State Fair served culinary surprises that celebrate the state’s heritage–with staples such as barbecue sandwiches and Coca-Cola drinks–while pushing the boundaries of creativity and uniqueness. The fair opened on September 29 and highlighted a large offering of new fair foods, including the Cedar River Seafood fair food truck.

Among the standout dishes for this year’s fair was the “Salted Caramel Turtle Funnel Cake” made from a fresh funnel cake dusted with powdered sugar, fudge, salted caramel and chopped pecans (Georgia pecans, of course!).

Another flavor-filled treat was the “Red Neck Dawg.” This southern take on the traditional hot dog is a Cajun sausage corn dog served with a nice helping of southern coleslaw. A favorite among fair food fans was the “Pecan Crusted Pulled Pork Meatballs,” which is a pulled pork meatball covered in a pecan crust and deep fried. 

Walking Nacho Dog at the Florida State Fair Florida State Fair

Florida State Fair foods: Walking Nacho Dog

Because of the Sunshine State’s hot summer temperatures, the annual state fair is held in February each year. The 2023 fair offered visitors typical agricultural exhibits, the state’s largest Home Show and Florida’s RV Super show. But it was the many exotic food offerings from the food fair vendors that were the biggest hit.

Enter: the “Walking Nacho Dog”! This spicy version of a typical hot dog included jalapeño peppers, corn chips and nacho cheese sauce. It wasn’t the only Latin American-inspired dish, as the fair also served up “Mexican Street Corn Sundaes,” which featured Southwest-flavored French fries topped with chile con queso, sweet corn and cilantro lime crema with either a Cajun shrimp or sirloin steak topping.

Since the Florida State Fair is held close to Tampa, a crowd favorite was the Tampa Cuban sandwich. The sandwich includes Spanish pork, Genoa salami, smoked ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles, with a large dollop of mustard. No bread is required since this version of the sandwich was pressed between two funnel cakes topped with a doughnut glaze.

The next Florida State Fair begins on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Iowa Twinkie at the Iowa State Fair Photo Courtesy: Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair foods: Iowa Twinkie

The Iowa State Fair hosts one of the premier agricultural shows in the country. Of course, a main attraction each year is dishing out some of the best fair food around! The 2023 fair featured 200 food stands and over 50 yummy choice meals available on a stick, so no one left with an empty stomach.

Why so many options for food on a stick? It’s an Iowa State Fair thing; the fair is famous for this mobile method of dining. The saying from veterans of the fair goes something like, “If you can find it at the fair, you can find it on a stick.” Among this year’s stick-stuck foods : cookie dough in a waffle…on a stick, Polish sausage corn dog…on a stick, and deep-fried cherry pie…yes, of course, on a stick!

This year’s food fair vendors brought 64 new fair foods to try, but we’ve got our eyes on the “Iowa Twinkie.” This smoked-bacon-wrapped jalapeño stuffed with pulled pork, sweet corn, cream cheese, ranch seasoning and glazed with “Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ” sauce sounds sure to please.

The Iowa State Fair offered speared healthy food options as well, including salad-on-a-stick, grilled turkey sandwiches and veggie corn dogs.

The 2023 Iowa State Fair ran from August 10-20, 2023. 

Al Taco Baba at the Minnesota State Fair Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair foods: Al Taco Baba

The Minnesota State Fair is renowned for its eclectic food offerings that both tease and test the taste buds of visitors each year. Among the 2023 Minnesota State Fair’s unique food new offerings were the “Al Taco Baba,” “Bacon-Wrapped Waffle Dog” and “Bee Sting Sundae.”

The Al Taco Baba takes traditional hummus and combines it with harissa barbacoa, corn, queso fresco, chili dust, shatta (hot sauce), crema, cilantro and pita puffs.

A crowd favorite was the Bacon-Wrapped Waffle Dog. This fired-grilled, bacon-wrapped Kramarczuk hot dog served on a Nordic Waffle with cheddar cheese, pickle slices and crispy onions also kept many fair-goer’s bellies full.

The Minnesota State Fair ran from August 24 thru Labor Day, 2023.

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