- Fair-goers gather around Zeppoles to order deep-fried Twinkies and other sweet treats as Lonny Daniels works the booth. Zeppoles is the only booth at the Indiana State Fair that offers deep-fried Twinkies. Photo by Megan Banta, Franklin College Statehouse Bureau.
By Shelby Salazar
It was one of the biggest mysteries leading up to this year's Indiana State Fair: How do you deep-fry Kool-Aid?
And perhaps the second biggest question was the natural follow: Is it good?
"It tastes like a cherry chip cake!" exclaimed Julie Klarich, 42, of Indianapolis, after biting into the mystifying fried ball at the fair this week. "It is actually really good."
Chris Tincher, 34, of Louisville, is the man behind the Indiana State Fair's deep-fried Kool-Aid. He got the idea from "Chicken" Charlie Boghosian, who is known nationally for his fried-food fair creations. Tincher saw him on The Today Show.
"We decided to take his idea and make it better," said Tincher, who was getting help at his booth from two friends.
The men take cherry flavored Kool-Aid powder and make it into dough, which is rolled into little balls and deep fried. The red balls are then covered in powdered sugar and served.
This week, fairgoers were lining up to try the Kool-Aid treat and dozens of other fair goodies - including new creations and some old favorites.
For fair-goers who didn't want a sweet treat, rows of booths off savory options as well. There are booths selling corn on the cob, gyros, barbecued lamb and even fried green beans and fried pickles, which are served with ranch dip.
Klarich, who was working at the Indiana Farm Bureau booth, has been coming to the fair since she was a kid. Her favorite part is the food.
"My husband and I will go to different booths and each get something. Then we split it," said Klarich. "We are making our way down to the different vendors."
Lonny Daniels, 30, of Indianapolis, was frying Twinkies at a fair booth. The Twinkies are frozen and dipped in a "secret batter which tastes like cookie dough batter," Daniels said. It is then dipped in the oil for several minutes and finally coated in powdered sugar, chocolate or freshly ground cinnamon.
The result is a sweeter-tasting, slightly greasy giant Twinkie.
"This is what a corn dog wants to be when it grows up," Daniels said with a smile.
Mary Aharg, 67, of Indianapolis, and her son Todd Aharg, 48, who is also from Indianapolis, were eagerly waiting in line to try the deep fried Twinkies. The treats expand to double their original size once battered and fried.
"This is good," said the younger Aharg as he went in for another bite.
Mary raved about the taste. "I'll have to come back next year and eat one of these again!"
Nearby, 19-year-old Jessica Bedkey of North Manchester and Kara Ravenscroft, 30, of Wabash, were busy at the Red Barn Elephant Ear booth.
The family-owned booth has been a fixture at the state fair since 1972. This was Bedkey's first year working at the booth, while Ravencroft was the veteran with 10 years experience.
"The dough is made from scratch," Ravenscroft said. "It is delicious and the people love it."
Lora Smith, 43, of Greenwood, was one of those people. "I've been coming to the fair since I was little, and this is the only thing I get every time," Smith said.
Joan Daly, 79, of Indianapolis, also looks forward to her state fair elephant ear. She was sitting on a shaded bench enjoying the sugar-coated treat.
"I've been coming to the state fair for 25 years now and I come strictly for the elephant ears," said Daly. "Pork chops and corn on the cob are also on my list of food to eats while at the fair, but the elephant ears are my favorite."
Another family-owned booth is Sutter's State Fair Salt Water Taffy. Based in Herrin, Ill., the company has been making appearances at fairs across the country since 1919.
Sutter's makes several flavors of salt water taffy including strawberry, peppermint, chocolate, and the popular peanut butter.
"Peanut butter is my favorite," said Betty O'Patt, 28, who was working at the booth. She has been with the company for nearly seven months and this is O'Patt's first year coming to the Indiana State Fair.
Tom and Kim Stone have been coming to the fair for the past decade and they always stop by Sutter's booth to pick up a box of taffy.
"It is just so good," said Kim, 54, "We love all the fair food, especially turkey legs and strawberry shortcake, but we always like to get some peanut butter taffy."
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.