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County Fair Food Extravaganza

Santa Cruz County Fair offers old favorites and new flavors.

What better place to discover the food bounty of a particular area than at the County Fair? I arrived on Tuesday, just after noon, with my companion, Michael. Two lines of fair-goers—each several blocks long—were waiting to enter.

Fortunately, the lines moved quickly through the gates. In the Commercial Exhibits area, I met Alexis Royeca and Aaron Einhorn,  sales reps for Cutco knives. With all its baking contests, barbecues and produce exhibits, the fair is full of foodies. Royeca and Einhorn expect to sell plenty of cutting implements.

Santa Cruz County farms were represented in the Agriculture/Horticulture exhibits with giant pumpkins, beautiful apples (and bottles of apple juice), tomatoes, squashes and other produce. There were even amusing vegetable and fruit sculptures. Both small organic farms and larger, corporate farms were represented, as well as the local cattle industry.

We didn't have to go far to find lunch. Michael found his in the form of a single marinated, barbecued turkey drumstick from Big Bear BBQ. But this wasn’t just any turkey drumstick; it was huge.

“A little salty,” Michael said, but nevertheless delicious.

“You look like a cave man!” one passer-by remarked with a grin, as Michael chewed on the hunk of meat.

The owner of Big Bear BBQ, Jim Frasir, is a hefty guy who runs a large operation with many staff members.

“I’ve been in the business for 22 years,” Frasir said, flipping a rack of ribs. Big Bear services only county fairs and other large events where they sell ribs, chicken, kabobs, corn on the cob, and other meats. Frasir’s father, Jess, was just around the corner, selling curly fries.

There was plenty of traditional fair food in the booths, but I was looking for something a little different. I stopped at California Pita and Potatoes, run by Kenny and Gloria Glaser. I orderd a chicken pita sandwich, which contained beans in a spicy tomato sauce, with avocado, fresh vegies and cheese. It offered a healthy, tasty alternative. Gina Moore and her daughter, Haley Light, worked the front counter. They are among the seven to eight staffers who will be working at the booth for the duration of the fair.

I knew I wouldn’t feel like I had been at a until I had a corn dog, and found one that satisfied my craving. But I passed on the alligator sausage, giant pretzels, even bacon, cheddar and garlic fries. Michael sated his thirst on a traditional cola shaved ice.

Finally, we headed over to the , sponsored by the . Jess Brown, its executive director, informed me that the contest began as a way to promote the local apple industry. While apple growing in Santa Cruz County has recently been overtaken by berry farming, Jess is optimistic.

“There are enough apples growing here to keep Martinelli’s Juice in business,” he said. He was especially happy to see local growers experimenting with heirloom varieties.

JoAnn Shaw’s apple pie—full of luscious apples and decorated with pie crust flowers—won Best of Show, out of 27 contestants. Bridgett Titus won first place in the Junior category and Cheryl Pettigrew, of Watsonville, won first place in the Master’s Category (contestants who have previously won first or second place).

Viewing all those delicious pies made me hungry again. Although I had to leave, there are five days left of the fair—plenty of time to look for that perfect apple pie.

, 2601 East Lake Ave. on Hwy. 152, Watsonville. Open September 13—18. 831.724.5671, info@SantaCruzCountyFair.com

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