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A smorgasbord of tempting treats at Gold Country Fair

Tradition of indulgence starts Thursday
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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The Gold Country Fair returns to Auburn Thursday, and for many people that means it’s time for carnival games, livestock exhibits, arts and crafts displays and stomach-turning daredevil rides.

For the rest of us, it means it’s time to eat.

Fair food is a deep-fried American tradition, and the options at state, county and local fairs have grown to include adventurous selections such as deep-fried candy bars and even deep-fried butter. (This features editor may or may not have partaken in a deep-fried Moon Pie at this year’s California State Fair. And it may or may not have been delicious).

You’re not going to find deep-fried butter in Auburn this week, but you’ll certainly have a hard time deciding what’s for lunch and dinner. Brittany Obey, who works in the Gold Country Fair office, hemmed and hawed as she attempted to pick just one favorite fair-time food.

“Lucky’s turkey legs, of course!” she finally decided.

Lucky Henner, who lives in the Sacramento area, runs both the Mr. Lucky’s Curly Fries and Red Hot Harry’s booths. He’s been coming to the fair here, off and on, for more than a decade, in addition to traveling the state to sell his food.

He’s been in the concession industry for 29 years, and when asked what got him interested in this nomadic lifestyle, he replied simply, “my love for fun and food.”

At Harry’s, Henner smokes meat all day long, serving up tri-tip, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and corn, “all the good stuff.” He laughed when the conversation turned toward turkey legs.

“Those are our claim to fame,” he said. “They’re smoked in a big smoker. We generally smoke them about 12 hours. Most people like them dry, but you can eat them with barbecue sauce. We have a special barbecue sauce that’s really nice and sweet and tangy.”

Oroville-based concessionaire Richard Allen will sell roasted corn, kettle corn and old-fashioned sodas at the Gold Country Fair. He’s been in the business for 15 years, he said, and selling roasted corn for six. He uses a commercial corn roaster, similar to a convection oven, that roasts the corn for 40 minutes, in the husk, at 400 degrees.

“It’s just almost perfect corn,” said Allen, multi-tasking as he set up for a fair in Los Angeles. “It retains all the moisture – it doesn’t dry it out. It’s just super-sweet corn.”

Allen’s soda stand is a booth of a different color – Sierra Soda operates out of an old-fashioned covered wagon. It hearkens back to the early 1900s, when Coca-Cola was gaining popularity.

“They mixed it with seltzer water, which is natural water that comes from springs in certain areas, with syrup,” Allen explained.

Today, soda fountains are controlled by electricity and regulators, so when the carbonation from the water hits the syrup it tends to “blow it up,” Allen added.

“Our fountains do just the opposite. It only uses about a third of the carbonation, so when the seltzer water, or carbonated water, mixes with the syrup, you end up with a sweeter product where the taste isn’t really distorted.”

Allen offers root beer, cola, diet cola, lemon-lime and cherry flavors, among others.

Fairgoers can support local nonprofit organizations, as well. The PlacerArts booth will serve Round Table Pizza for the second year, with proceeds benefiting the Auburn Hip Hop Congress. Lighthouse Christian Center will sell Mexican food, and the Placer County Wine and Grape Association will have a booth, as well.

A popular fair-time treat is the tri-tip served by Auburn Elks Lodge No. 1691, which will also man a beer booth this year.

“We usually rotate around, and we’ll have 40-50 people out there during the fair,” said Jim Chapman, lodge manager. “We’re a big organization. A lot of people don’t know that, but we have well over 800 members.”

The Elks have been serving tri-tip at the fair for 20 years, Chapman said, and the dish has proven to be a hit.

“It’s very good,” he said. “It’s nice and tender. It’s thin-sliced tri-tips, and they’re put on a really nice crusty bun. If you want sautéed bell pepper and onions, it’s an option there.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AuburnJournalAE.

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Gold Country Fair

Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn

Hours

Thursday, Sept. 6: 4-11 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 7: 4 p.m. to midnight

Saturday, Sept. 8:11 a.m. to midnight

Sunday, Sept. 9: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tickets and info: www.goldcountryfair.com; (530) 823-4533