The sweet smell of cinnamon and powdered sugar hung in the air, wafting through the streets of Pike as if to say “come hither, you know you can’t resist the sweet deliciousness of fried dough.” Mingling with the scent, was the pungent aroma of sizzling sausage and fried peppers and onions. Rolling on top of that...the scent of taffy, pizza and tacos wrapping itself around you like an old comfortable sweatshirt.
Nothing quite beats the taste of fair food and the 173rd Wyoming County Fair is host to a plethora of culinary delights.
G Crew Concessions has been a staple of the fair for close to 75 years...and it’s always been a family affair.
When Tracey Bush’s grandfather passed away, her father Cliff Schortz continued to operate the confectioner's stand, traveling around the state to sell his sweets. Recently, Schortz became ill. Not wanting the business to see its demise, Tracey, her husband, Chris, and their three children – Gage, Grace and Jarrett – decided to try their hand at making the famous funnel cakes and waffle cones.
“This is the first year we’ve done this,” Tracey said. “So far, we are having a good time. Although we can’t fit all five of us in here at one time so we are on rotating shifts.”
Don Mack, owner of JMT Enterprises Blooming Onions, said he was “born into the business.” The semiretired owner said his uncle got him into it more than 30 years ago.
The stand goes through approximately five 50-pound bags of Vidalia onions a day. That’s about 250 pounds of onions for the week!
The family-run operation travels throughout the state boasting the “biggest onions around.”
“I enjoy working with my kids, they are always there to help me,” Mack said. “We sell a slice of heaven wrapped up in deep-fried delight.”
The key to his success is his batter, and of course he wouldn’t reveal its ingredients.
“It’s a secret family recipe,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
One cannot possibly leave the fair without the tasty treat of Fowlers Taffy as well. With a family recipe that has not changed for almost 100 years, the popular candymaker has been a icon of the fair for close to 70 years.
David Fowler, a third-generation candymaker said the best part of the fair is “the people and meeting new faces.”
The process of making the taffy takes about an hour from start to finish. Prior to becoming its familiar ruler-like shape, the sweetened goo feels like “hot Silly Putty” until its cool enough to handle.
To even out the temperature of the candy – so there are no hot or cold spots – takes a technique of body weight and leverage.
“You definitely know when you are doing it wrong,” he said. “You’ll feel it at the end of the day.”
In addition to the food and games and rides at the fair, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department is holding Operation SAFE CHILD.
Operation SAFE CHILD was created in 2005 to promote child safety. Through a partnership with the New York State Sheriffs' Association, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, New York State Police and the New York City Police Department, the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse expanded the program into a multi-pronged campaign which provides parents and guardians with three tools to promote child safety:
• Know your child’s information by obtaining a free SAFE CHILD card;
• Know your child’s friends by learning about Internet safety; and
• Know your neighborhood by using the New York State Sex Offender Registry.
Under the program, parents can bring their children to the Sheriff’s Department booth in the People’s Building on the fair grounds, fill out a bit of paperwork, and have their child’s picture and fingerprint taken.
The photo and identifying information is then scanned onto a card – similar in size to a credit card – which the parents can put in their wallet or other safe place.
“The cards can be used so emergency responders have pertinent information on the child if they become lost, missing or taken,” said Sheriff Gregory Rudolph. “We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years now.”
The fair in now in full swing and continues through Aug. 20. Look for more highlights throughout the week as we continue our coverage of the “Pike Fair."
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