GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Finding the Clay Today booth at the Clay County Agriculture Fair is as easy as following your nose.
One of the pleasures of the fair is the overwhelming temptation to eat. We treat fair week like a loophole for our gastronomic common sense. In fact, we feel obliged to eat anything, and everything, that’s been cooked in grease, covered with sugar and stuck on a stick.
So finding our exhibit at the fair is as simple as working through a maze of concession stands and carnival barkers. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it seems.
If you come through the front gate, go past the stand that sells Cheesecake Factory ice cream bars, corn dogs, hot dogs and cheesesteaks, and turn left at the booth selling peanuts and pork skins.
If you turn right, you’ll immediately be intoxicated by the smoky aroma of sirloin steak tips. The lines are long, but the service is quick. And delicious.
Just out of curiosity, do you wonder how many bottom round sirloin tips are cooked, chopped and devoured in a day?
“We don’t count,” said the guy taking money between wafts of greasy haze. “We just keep making it and making it.”
To get back on track, you make a u-turn at the steak place. If you can, and it won’t be easy, try to save your appetite for the short journey that’s still riddled with so many other choices. Remember, eating at the fair is a marathon, not a sprint.
When you get past the main entrance again, pass the booth that sells mac ‘n cheese and bacon dogs, and another place that features corn on the cob and smoked turkey legs.
Keep going past Peachey’s doughnuts on the left. No, it’s all right to stop there. Their “Old Amish” doughnuts have been so popular at the fair, the sign advertising them simply says: “The Doughnut.” Enough said.
It takes a crew to prepare the dough and a separate crew to cook the doughnuts. They are big, light, fluffy and very sweet – a lot like a Krispy Kreme on steroids.
The stand is so popular, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office jokingly posted a BOLO – be on the lookout – for the woman making doughnuts. (Insert your own joke here.)
You still have to pass booths with smoothies, pizza on a stick, calzones, barbecue, cinnamon rolls, bread pudding, apple dumplings, mike shakes, sundaes, taffy, fried seafood, pretzels, Wisconsin cheese bites, slushies, Lo’ Country boil, waffle cones, sno cones, candy apples, deep-friend Oreos, Asian food and, finally, funnel cakes. Amazingly, the distance between the Amish doughnuts and the funnel cakes is just 25 yards. And two billion calories.
(If you pass a concession stand selling fresh salads, you’re hallucinating. Seek help.)
As you approach Exhibition Hall, turn right at stand that sells licorice, fudge and nuts. Go past the lemonade stand and at the Gyros and baked potato booth, turn left into Hall 1.
It will be easy to be distracted – again – by what’s ahead, not to the left inside the hall. After all, who doesn’t like bacon cheddar cheese fries, gator wraps and chocolate chip cookies?
When you step inside the door, you will smell the sweet concoctions that come from Helen and Sons Old Fashion Copper Kettle Butter Fudge, you’re close. Fudge is to the right. We’re to the left. Ok, we’ll wait for you to check it out.
Then stop by and check us out. And don’t forget to see the Southern Rock exhibit from the Clay County Clerk of Courts just down the hall from us.
The real challenge now is to find your way out, which means navigating through the same minefields of calories and carbs.
But since it’s fair week, it doesn’t count. Just don’t tell your doctor.