For those with a sweet tooth, funnel cakes, mini doughnuts, candy apples or cheesecake on a stick may do the trick. The fair’s specialty honey sundaes are a fan favorite, too, with vanilla ice cream drenched in local honey and topped with sunflower seeds.
For Brainerd resident Shannon Hill, the sundae’s texture with the crunchy sunflower seeds is even more important than the sweet taste.
“It’s a good mouthfeel,” Hill said as he enjoyed his sundae Thursday, Aug. 5.
Shannon Hill enjoys a honey sundae topped with sunflower seeds Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
After a car accident damaged Hill’s olfactory nerves, he lost his sense of taste and smell, which means he has to rely on how food feels in his mouth.
“So I’m really good at finding things that give you a good mouthfeel,” he said. “Prior to the accident I still came here. And now I’m here because I know it’s good whether I can taste it or not.”
Those who want something more savory have choices ranging from corn dogs to pork chops on a stick to deep-fried mushrooms to the ever-popular oof-da tacos.
Charity Gallagher comes to the fair just for the nachos, and the Freeman family members gave thumbs up while enjoying deep-fried pickles and a bloomin’ onion as first-time fairgoers. Little Harpur Freeman chowed down on a giant pickle, while already envisioning what he wanted next — ice cream.
Harpur Freeman enjoys a giant pickle on a stick Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
For others who might want a sweet/salty mixture — and a little tang — a cup of Koolickles may do the trick. At The Pickle Stand, dill pickles soaked in Kool-Aid are a colorful and intriguing new treat.
Chantal Christofferson tried them partly on a dare from a friend.
Koolickles sign on The Pickle Stand Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Madison Huber, left, and Chantal Christofferson daringly try Koolickles Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. The Pickle Stand sells dill pickles soaked in Kool-Aid. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
“I just wanted to try something new,” she said, with her friend Madison Huber adding they were interesting, even though Huber doesn’t like pickles herself.
Flavors include tropical, raspberry lemonade, grape, orange and cherry berry, and the pickles come with eight in a cup. The Pickle Stand employee Lynn Lerfald said the Koolickles were just something the food vendor wanted to try this year, having heard of them selling elsewhere. Customers came in spurts to try the concoction, and Lerfald said she was taking feedback, trying to figure out which flavors people liked the best.
Donald Deering holds up a freshly made cookie dough and bacon on a stick Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. The Aunt Ed-Moe’s Cookies truck also sold deep-fried cookie dough. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Another unique treat appealing to both the sweet and salty taste buds is the cookie dough and bacon on a stick, courtesy of Aunt Ed-Moe’s Cookies. Aside from giant chocolate chip cookies, the Aitkin company sells frozen balls of cookie dough covered in chocolate and rolled in bits of bacon. It’s sweet, salty, chewy and crunchy all wrapped up in one dish.
But even more popular at the Aunt Ed-Moe’s truck is the deep-fried cookie dough — chocolate chip cookie dough fried in funnel cake batter. Donald Deering said he has set up at the Houston Rodeo and sold more than 11,000 sticks of deep-fried cookie dough at one event.
Caidance, left, and Alaina Bouc flavor their shaved ice from the Kona Ice truck Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
And for the fairgoers who may want something refreshing and even healthy, the Kona Ice shaved ice truck offers icy goodies with dozens of flavor options, all made with Vita-Blend, sweetened with natural Stevia and infused with Vitamins C and D.
“It’s healthier, and it tastes really good,” owner Libby Devere said.
Caidance and Alaina Bouc, of Nisswa, donned the colorful flower leis that came with their shaved ice. Caidance and mom Melissa Bouc enjoyed pina colada flavored ice, while Alaina chose to mix her own flavors, taking a little from several different flavor spouts for a custom creation.
Ready-made flavors include Pink Bubble Gum, Scarlet Dragon, Mermaid, Unicorn, Cake Pop and Butter Beer.
I tried a few of the food offerings myself, along with Dispatch photographer Kelly Humphrey and fellow staff writer Frank Lee.
Kelly and I were first drawn to the cookie dough creations, trying both the deep-fried cookie dough and the dough covered in chocolate in bacon. We had similar reactions, both favoring the one with bacon. It doesn’t sound like it should taste good, but it did. The bacon added a little salt and a perfect amount of crisp to offset the chewy cookie dough. But don’t get me wrong, the deep-fried cookie dough covered in powdered sugar was also delicious.
Cookie dough and bacon on a stick from Aunt Ed-Moe’s Cookies Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Kelly, Frank and I all tried the Koolickles, which were the main thing we came to the fair to sample.
Frank and I both appreciated the crunch of the pickle but were blasted with more Kool-Aid flavor than we anticipated. After Kelly’s first bite she said it was interesting. After a second, she said wasn’t sure how to feel about it and felt the flavor was difficult to explain.
After talking to a couple fairgoers and sharing the Koolickles around our office, some of the descriptions we heard were “intriguing,” “confused,” “interesting” and “not awful.”
Dispatch reporters Theresa Bourke and Frank Lee prepare to try Koolickles, Kool-Aid soaked pickles, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Personally, I can say that I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t love them either. They were an interesting experience for sure, with the crunch of a pickle but mostly the tangy taste of Kool-Aid with just a little bit of dill at the end.
So if anyone is feeling adventurous and looking for a new food experience, chocolate-covered cookie dough dipped in bacon and Koolickles are my suggestions.
Kelly and I also took on the shaved ice from the Kona Ice stand, with Kelly making her own concoction, and the Harry Potter nerd in me not being able to resist the butterscotch flavor of the Butter Beer. We both agreed they were especially refreshing after walking around in the heat.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.