EAST TEXAS STATE FAIR | A VISIT TO FOOD ROW

Attendees of this year's East Texas State Fair will find no shortage of food that can be deep-fried or wrapped in bacon.

Once again, the event has attracted dozens of food vendors who are lined up along the fair's Food Row serving a variety of cuisine.

"I think what makes it so special is that it's only here once a year," said Mallory Martin, the fair's assistant director of commercial exhibits. "You don't eat fried food every day. It's something different."

While visitors can find many traditional fair staples, such as funnel cakes, corndogs and turkey legs, Martin said many vendors have added twists to the dishes they serve.

One of several new vendors at the fair this year is Winkle Concessions, where owner Lee Winkle, of Winnsboro, said the inspiration for the food is "bacon everything."

The bestseller is the bacon-wrapped chicken, which is marinated overnight

and wrapped in bacon before being battered and fried. A few other popular menu items offered at Winkle Concessions include bacon and cheese curly fries and bacon-wrapped sausage, but they are not the only items that attract customers.

"My son was 10 years old at the time and we were talking about our menu and he said 'you should do bacondipped in chocolate," Winkle said. "... Then I looked at my husband and I was like, 'well maybe.'

"We tried it and...here we are years later," she said of the $6 menu item.

Those looking for a more traditional crowd favorite at the fair might try the Trinity Lutheran Church's assortment of homemade pies. Offered in chocolate cream, coconut cream, pecan and buttermilk, individual slices go for $3. The chocolate cream pie is the bestseller.

"Everybody loves pies," said June Kruger, a 'pie lady' at Trinity Lutheran Church who helps make them and serves them at the fair. "I understand there are people who come from quite some distance to get our pie."

Ted Kamel Foods offers customers a preview of some of its dishes, with several items sitting in a display case right outside the concession stand. There is an extensive menu of sides, entrees and desserts that can be grilled or fried.

A variety of platters at the stand, mostly $7, offer customers everything from fried green tomatoes to fried peach tacos. Burgers can feature everything from chili cheese to quesadillas. Batter-fried Twinkies, fried Oreos and fried cheesecake are also on the menu.

"I grew up at the fair; I started working for my uncle Rodney Kamel when I was age 11," Ted Kamel said. "We serve just about everything you can imagine. Everything here, we buy local, we hire local folks."

Other food vendors in this year's lineup offer customers everything from Cajun and Mexican food, to an array of slushies and ice cream.

For some, the food offered on Food Row is one of their favorite things about the fair.

"We come every year for this pie," said Chris Jones, as she sat alongside her husband BJ and ate a piece of the coconut cream pie from Trinity Lutheran Church. "My mother was a member of the church, so I've been coming here for 30 years. I would not leave here without my pie."

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IF YOU GO

• The East Texas State Fair runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds, 2000 W. Front St.

• Those visiting Food Row for lunch receive free admission from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• For more information about some of the vendors at the fair, go to www.etstatefair.com/p/entertainment-/food-row.

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