Fair foodies, rejoice!
If you’re looking to try the new and unusual this year, The Big Fresno Fair has got you covered. From a fried chicken and ice cream sandwich to nitrogen cereal, there’s plenty to add to your list between the traditional fair cuisine like cinnamon rolls, corn dogs and soft tacos.
Serving up giant gelato shakes, Fabe’s Gelato is back for their 10th year. Owner Matt Holguin concocted the new pumpkin spice shake for this year, piled high with whipped cream, a Ferrero Rocher chocolate and a whole slice of pumpkin pie. “Especially in Fresno, shakes are super popular,” operator Johnny Nash said.
Another popular shake, the FPD, named for the Fresno Police Department, is made with coffee gelato, whipped cream and a doughnut. “We try to have fun with the names,” Nash said.
The Oreo shake is still the most popular, according to Nash, along with other goodies like sundaes and flavored churro ice cream sandwiches.
Fabe’s sold 800 shakes Saturday and they expect to sell close to 10,000 by the time the fair closes Oct. 15, Nash said. “They’re not that great for you,” he laughed, “but they sure look great.”
Over in the sports zone, Chicken Charlie’s manager Jerald Smith is serving up the new Krispy Kreme chicken ice cream sandwich for the first time this year. Topped with a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkling of Fruity Pebbles, a slice of vanilla ice cream and a piece of fried chicken sits between a raspberry-filled Krispy Kreme doughnut.
Fair goer Kenny Rose of Big Creek was skeptical of the sandwich at first. Rose was thinking of going the traditional route with a corn dog, but wanted to try out the sandwich.
“I don’t know if I want to eat that,” he joked, but after taking a bite he changed his mind. “It’s actually pretty good. I guess I don’t need a corn dog anymore.”
Chicken Charlie’s also offers its new cotton candy ice cream sandwich – a slice of vanilla ice cream between blue and pink cotton candy, rolled in Fruity Pebbles. “All I can tell you is that you can never eat too many of these,” Smith joked. “My doctor told me it’s going to expand my lifespan a tremendous amount – I’ll probably live to be 140!”
Joking aside, Smith said if customers are looking for something healthier, Chicken Charlie’s also sells grilled chicken items. “Most people when they come to the fair, they want to try something different,” he said. “We take something ordinary and average and put a twist on it. Where else are you gonna find something like this?”
New to the fair and also in the sports zone is The Nitro Shack, selling nitrogen-coated cereal. Customers like 7-year-old Juan Barajas couldn’t get enough of the treats, blowing “smoke” out of his mouth every time he tried the multi-colored bites. “This is cool, Mama!” Juan said, giving his approval to his parents.
The Nitro Shack employee Natalie Borkovic said the treats, tasting similar to Cap’n Crunch, are soaked in liquid nitrogen, which causes the vapor effect when eaten. “Kids love it and adults feel like kids again,” she said.
Near the industry commerce building, some will remember William Henry’s Hammertime Cafe, which took a 16 year hiatus from the fair. Owner William Henry lives in Fresno, but took some time off to care for his aging parents before returning this year with his custom built food truck.
Also unusual about the Hammertime Cafe is that it serves Italian food: spaghetti or angel hair pasta topped with red, alfredo, verde or garlic butter sauces, and meatballs. Not your traditional fair food, Henry agrees, but that doesn’t keep customers away.
“I used to eat here all the time,” said Fresnan Tim Stewart, carrying a large plate of pasta and a long piece of garlic bread, called the Hammer, away from the booth. Stewart said he remembers the Hammertime Cafe and when he saw it was at the fair again, he knew exactly what he wanted. “It’s the same thing I always got,” he said, “angel hair with garlic butter.”
Henry said his food might not be the most unusual of all fair food, but it does create nostalgia to keep people coming back. “It’s been amazing to me,” he said. “People come to me and say, ‘Oh, great, you’re back.’ ”
If you go
The 2017 edition of the Big Fresno Fair runs through Oct. 15
- Gates open: Monday-Friday 11 a.m., Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. Doors open at 9 a.m. Oct. 9 for senior and special interest day
- Gates close: Sunday-Thursday 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday midnight
- Tickets: Adults $12, children ages 6-12 $8, children 5 and younger free, seniors 62 and older $8 (free on Oct. 9), military with ID $8
- Parking: Chance Avenue parking lot, $15; Butler Avenue and the infield lots, $10; Maple/Butler and Cedar/Kings Canyon, $5
- Details: www.fresnofair.com