Fried, dipped or on a stick

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, October 13, 2011

John and Mary Beth Hanberry don’t spend their money on rides and games at the Mississippi State Fair.

For them, it’s all about the food — a culinary odyssey that takes them from stand to stand for fried catfish and roasted corn then caramel apples and funnel cakes.

“When we come to the fair, we get one order here and split it,” John Hanberry said Tuesday standing in line at the Penn’s food stand. “Then we’ll go to three or four places. The first time I bit into a Polish sausage sandwich, I got lockjaw it was so good.”

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They trained for it before they came. John lifted weights, and “We walked at the gym today, so we can do this,” Mary said.

From foods stabbed with sticks to practically everything fried you can imagine, including: dill pickle chips, onion chips, mushrooms, green tomatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, fried crawfish tails and oysters. It’s not your most healthful fare, but the greasy array of favorites only comes to town once a year.

Eric Gamble and his co-worker Catherine Horton came to see if they could repeat the funnel cake incident.

“This is our annual day,” he said. “We come and do the fair food, and sometimes she wears it back to the office.”

Horton said: “One year, I held a funnel cake, and as soon as it got in my possession, a strong wind blew and confectioners’ sugar went everywhere.”

Gamble said: “We’re probably going to have to get a funnel cake to see if we can duplicate that event. She’s wearing a red shirt today, so it will work well.”

Gamble is a big fan of Pronto Pups because his grandfather used to take him to a Pronto Pup stand at the reservoir 40 years ago.

“This is the only place that I can find that they make them,” he said.

Erica Jones has spent four days ingesting fair food.

On the first day, it was one Polish sausage, one funnel cake, a corndog, a candy apple and a Coke.

Then she had chicken on a stick two days in a row.

“Today, I’m having pizza and a funnel cake,” she said.

If you’re looking for a new stick food, why not try the Chocolate Dipt Corn Dogs found at several stands.

“They’re a novelty,” said food stand worker Steve Keith. ‘It’s like chocolate covered bacon. What people eat out here, they don’t eat at home.”

Erica Harris, who works at the O’Brien’s Too stand, has sold several Chocolate Dipt Corn Dogs this time, but back by popular demand from its 2010 debut, is the Donut Burger with a Krispy Kreme bun.

Kelsie Olsteen, of Hattiesburg, unabashedly ordered one while seated in his wheelchair.

“I tried it last year, and it’s just good,” he said. “It’s different. It’s not as nasty as you would think. It’s just a sweet bun.

“We hear it all the time: If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. I’ve survived 12 car wrecks and a motorcycle wreck. You can’t knock (the Donut Burger) until you’ve tried it. I’ll probably get another one tomorrow.”

When asked if he’d tried the Chocolate Dipt Corn Dog, Olsteen responded: “No. That’s just nasty.”

Donut Burger sales are up this year, Harris said.

“I’ve had some who said: ‘Is this going to kill me?’ Some say ‘Ewwww … I have to try it’ and ‘How many calories are in it?’

“I always tell them there are no calories at the fair,” Harris said.