Thing about local fairs, they don’t have to try too hard. Forget the wide-brimmed sun hat snootiness of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, overabundance of strollers and 80’s rock bands at the Taste of Colorado and herbal jazz of the Capital Hills People’s Fair, small town events are tidbits of vanilla ice milk suburbia.
This weekend I stopped by Broomfield Days, an annual event that closes Main Street for blocks and features loads of small businesses selling services, arts and crafts (like “Health Jewelry,” handmade trinkets guaranteed to cure your ails, mostly turquoise-y looking beads on leather straps.) The police and fireman were on hand with the "Say No to Teen Drinking" smashed car; the recent televised PSA/morality tale of snapping necks and texting while driving delivers more of an impact (pun intended). New this year, live music (kid friendly surf jams) and bouncy cages.
I arrived in the afternoon, thinking the late summer sun kinder to my trout belly colored skin. Thought I’d dressed appropriately, right down to sensible shoes, but a few minutes in and my low profile Chuck Taylor’s were off, toes in need of cool relief. The festival was awash with booth after booth of massage hawkers, insurance companies and holiday crafts. Decided to give myself over and acclimate with a fair staple, the jumbo turkey leg.
Never had one (seemed cumbersome and odd to gnaw on) but at three in the afternoon the morning banana had worn thin and they smelled good on the grill, smoky and charred. Worse thing I ever put in my mouth and mine has stories to tell. The skin (usually the best bit of any bird) was thick, chewy and fleshy, like biting into a deep fried foot. Each tentative bite began with a crackle of bumpy flesh, meat impossible to engage. I quit the $7 monstrosity after it dripped a hard stream of hot bird juice onto my skinny jeans. The $6 Killian’s helped wash away some of the taste.
Fair food is about the smell and the greatest olfactory draw is the waft of oil, deep fried anything. I was intrigued by “Texas Tators,” a spud cut on an old school Ron Popeil vice-like slicer that curls long strings and ribbons, fried in oil, sprinkled with salt and yours (a small serving) for $5. Add “cheese” (the day glo orange liquid sold in pony keg-like cans at Costco) for a $1. People were lined up a dozen deep. Bad at math and more a student of Jethro Bodean ciphering and "go-zin-ta's,” even I see the high profit margin.
I’m going into the fair foods business, packing up an RV and traveling coast-to-coast hawking oily wares. And it starts with a sorely overlooked hungry mob food, the Tator Tot.
Tator Tot Pie, a.k.a. "Totties." The staple, deep fried, overly salted and served in a pie pan, topped with brown gravy and cheddar. Bacon bits extra (the "Tottie Oink.")
Tator Tot Sweeties, a.k.a. "Tweeties." Tots on a stick, rolled in crushed Captain Crunch cereal, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Comes with a side of thin white icing for dipping.
The “Stickie.” Old school simple, tots on a stick, tempura battered and deep fried, served with honey margarine or ketchup.
Tot Italiano, or “Titties on a Stick," an alternating stack of tots, wedges of mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and salami, rolled in breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with marinara (also known as chunky ketchup).
I’m going to make a million dollars.