Attack of the giant turkey leg, how to survive a day of eating and more eating at the Osceola County Fair
By Peter Covino
I have lost track of just how many Osceola County Fairs I have been to (I still love the “giant rat,” that in reality was a guinea pig) but each year I make a plan to sort of have a free-for-all, eat-a-thon, eating as many fair foods as I possibly can.
And then report back the damage.
Fortunately, I have always come to my senses and that event has never happened. At least, until now.
And I would like to thank the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce for making it all possible, not to mention the indigestion.
The chamber hosted a two-hour county fair opening event last week for chamber members and fair sponsors that was all about getting to know all that fair food, up-close, and personal. It was a grand event, deserving one of the fair’s blue ribbons.
Just about every one of those fair food favorites, new and old, was up for grabs on long tables at a room at the Kissimmee Valley Live Stock Show. A second room should have been set up with sofas, roll-a-beds and giant bottles of Tums.
As the final 15 minutes or so wound down for the fair food-a-thon, not a deep-fried Twinkie or Oreo was left in the house. Gone too, were the sausage and peppers, chicken and waffles, Philly cheese steak, turkey legs and corn dogs.
This was my first brush with the deep-fried Twinkie. Once an endangered species (when Hostess’ parent company went bankrupt), the Twinkie’s appeal went out by the time I hit puberty, even though Archie Bunker loved them in his lunch box, right on through middle-age. It is just too sugary-sweet and deep-frying seems to just make the whole thing sweeter. And where did the creamy filling go? I ate half of one Twinkie, and the filling seemed to have collected in the bottom half I didn’t eat.
It is the way to go though, if you have a sweet tooth. I would give it an 8 on the fair food 1-10 meter, but only if you have a high tolerance for sugar. I walked around the fair, after the chamber event, and it looks like a deep-fried Twinkie will cost you about $5 in cash. In calories and fat, the damage is a bit greater. It contains 700 calories and 44 grams of fat, according to my online research. And 44 grams of fat is right around the daily maximum amount of fat for a woman (based on a 1,600-calorie diet).
I liked the Twinkie more than I did the deep-fried Oreo. It just sort of disintegrated at first bite. You get six Oreos for $5 at the fair. That adds up to about 80 calories per cookie, but only 3.5 grams of fat, so the Oreo might be a better way to go, health-wise. Plus, it has 1 percent of the calcium and 3 percent of the iron for your daily needs. Again, it is high in sugar. My overall experience with one cookie: A 4 on the fair food meter.
There are many other deep-fried experiences at the fair (which fortunately were not on any of the tables at the chamber ultimate fair food experience) including bubble gum, Snickers, chocolate chip cookies and other candy bars, all about $5 each.
The sweet part of the fair food experience also included caramel apples, candy apples and red velvet funnel cake. The apples were served up sliced with caramel and that hard red candy topping on top of the slices, makes it easier on the teeth. The apples get an 8 as well on the fair food meter. I didn’t see a concession stand for the apples (it is most definitely on the fairgrounds), so I can’t tell you the cost. A standard serving of funnel cake has about 760 calories and 44 grams of fat and I don’t know if you need to subtract or add calories when it is a red velvet version. An order of funnel cakes will cost about $5 at the fair and, if you add a topping such as strawberry, apple, cherry or Reese’s, that means more calories, and another dollar. The red velvet version is $6.
And then there is cotton candy (candy floss if you are Canadian), probably the “food” most synonymous with fairs. It has been around since the late 19th century and was invented by a European dentist. I guess that was one way to get customers. It first gained popularity in the U.S. at the world’s fair in St. Louis in 1904, but didn’t get the name “cotton candy” until yet another dentist in New Orleans invented a similar machine in 1921.
At the Osceola County Fair, cotton candy is available in blue , pink and yellow, but it still is just basically spun sugar. And it is reliable. It pretty much tastes the same no matter where you get it. A 2.1 oz. serving of cotton candy, which is probably about what you will find at the fair, is fat-free and has about 220 calories, but it also has 56 grams of sugar.
I did get to sample some of the “real food” as well at the event, though with all my note-taking, sometimes the serving pans were pretty lean by the time I got to them.
My favorite of all the foods sampled was a crispy, lightly-breaded, breast of chicken. It had a nice texture and great taste. It gets a definite 9 on the fair food meter. You will have to hunt down this chicken on your own though. I didn’t see it at any of the outdoor concessions, but I am sure it is there.
Sausage and kielbasa, both served with peppers and onions, is another noteworthy standout. The ones I sampled were mild, and I like them a bit spicier. But with all the other stuff gobbled down on the fair day experience, it probably was just as well. You probably can find a hotter variety amongst all those fair concession stands. The sausage/kielbasa gets a 7.5 on the fair eating scale. And it would have been higher if “hotter.” The calorie chart will probably shoot through the roof on this one. A typical Italian sandwich has 700 calories, with 42 grams of fat, 14 grams saturated. Add to that, 110 milligrams of cholesterol and 2,223 milligrams of sodium (that’s more than two-thirds of the suggested daily intake.) The cost of all this sausage goodness: Probably about $7.
I never have liked the corn dog very much. It’s a hot dog, presumably, covered up in stuff so you just aren’t sure that is a hot dog inside. Of course, kids love them and so do some friends. They served up slices of corn dog at the fair event, which was a very good thing since I didn’t have to bite into a whole one. It was pretty much like any other corn dog and I won’t even give it a rating since I just am not a fan. A regular-sized corn dog adds up to about 280 calories and 18 grams of fat. It should cost about $3 at the fair. A regular hot dog is about $2.
The frozen chocolate banana always ranked up there with one of the more embarrassing fair foods to eat in public. But then along came the turkey leg. Where do they get these giant things? Are they really from a turkey or is it an ostrich? It takes two people to eat it, one to carry, while the second person gnaws on it like an extra from Night of the Living Dead. At the chamber event, it was just turkey meat, served off the bone. That chicken breast I mentioned was much better. I never did find a price for the turkey leg either in my actual fair wandering. It is close to $10 at the Disney parks (Disney actually sells turkey leg shirts, the legs are so popular), but I am guessing the fair price is a few dollars cheaper. You are really going to need to loosen that belt for this one. The giant leg will add more than 1,100 calories to your daily diet, 54 grams of fat, 1,360 milligrams of cholesterol and 14,400 milligrams of sodium. I think that is about five days worth of sodium, all from just one leg. Sorry, all this fat and sodium, just can’t make up for how good they might be. It gets a 3 on the fair meter.
One of those serving pans was mysteriously labeled Crazy Fried Things, but it was none other than the deep-fried pickle. This is a Southern thing, deep-frying a dill pickle in batter, a food apparently popularized by a drive-in in Arkansas in the early 1960s. I still like my pickles unadorned, but fried pickles are a very popular fair food. There is about 175 calories in a fried pickle, a low amount of fat, but again lots of sodium, 1,221 grams.
In addition to all of those samplings I tried, the fair features pizza of course. A whole pie will cost about $20 or $3 by the slice.
Other options I saw included the Dynamite Onion, probably something like Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion, I am guessing. It is $8; chicken wings, large size, $15, small, $8 and nachos for $5.
The most intriguing concession stand at the fair, and one not sampled at the eating event, was a stand called Crackerbillies. It serves items such as jumbo shrimp and gumbo garlic shrimp, grouper and fries, gator nuggets on a stick, jalapeno poppers, fried cauliflower and corn nuggets. Gator nuggets on a stick are $8 and six pieces of shrimp will cost you $8.
Soft drinks are reasonably priced at the fair. Fountain sodas are about $2 for a 16 ounce cup, $5 for a large cup. At least one place offered refills of the large size for $2. Bottled water is only $1 at Crackerbillies, but $2 at most other places I saw.
Okay, so time for a little math. If it is date night for you at the fair, it will cost $10 for tickets for two adults. If it is a family outing, it is $3 for children, ages 3-11. And $26 for a family of four is certainly cheaper than a night at the movies.
Of course, you are not going to get away that cheaply. An Italian sausage for dad, cheese steak for mom and a hot dog each for two kids will add up to about $19. But you aren’t going to get out without buying French fries, pizza, cotton candy and something sweet that is deep-fried.
And there are the all those rides too. If you arrive at noon Saturday, you can save some money and purchase unlimited ride armbands until 5 p.m. You get to ride from noon until 7 p.m.
On Sunday, the last day of the fair, adult admission is $2 off and $1 off for children and seniors with each non-perishable canned food item. Unlimited rides armbands are again for sale as well, beginning at noon.
The regular price for midway ride tickets is $30 for 40 tickets or $1 per ticket, with rides costing between 2-6 tickets each.
For more information on the fair, including a list of daily events, go to osceolacountyfair.com.