Daily Star photo/ALY GIBSON Breanna Schwarte, of Rochester, Ind., stands in her healthy treat tent at the Cass County Fair Thursday. In its first year, Breanna’s Bananas has intrigued several fair visitors and encouraged them to try something new.

Archived Story

Fair food with a twist

Published 9:44pm Thursday, August 2, 2012

Depending on the time of day, Cass County Fair visitors can be seen enjoying the usual fair food favorites: corndogs, french fries, pretzels or funnel cakes. But some vendors took a step away from the norm and beefed up the choices.

From Oriental cuisine to healthier, smarter choices, fair food vendors aim to please with variety, quality and service. Traditional hamburgers and fresh-fried onion rings can be found merely a few feet away from fresh-grilled panini sandwiches with a twist.

As one of the biggest staples of the fair experience, the food is often half of the appeal to fair-goers, and vendors want to get it right.

“We’ve got different rice, like shrimp fried rice, chicken fried rice, eggrolls and pork or chicken sticks,” Earl Buckman, owner of The Oriental Concessions, said Thursday.

Located near the grandstand entrance, Buckman and his wife, Bobbi, have been coming to the fair with their oriental cuisine for nearly five years.

They travel the Michigan and Indiana circuits, which allow them to showcase their nontraditional selections at different fairs in the region.

“We also have corndogs so parents with kids don’t have to go elsewhere if the kids don’t want Oriental food,” Buckman said.

The trailer, which will be up for sale after the season ends, is also a family affair. The Buckman’s children help operate the stand and cook food.

“I’ve got my kids and grandkids that help out,” Bobbi said. “We’ve kept the recipes the same as the original owners, too.”

Della DeMink, of Hastings, also offers Oriental-style choices, such as bourbon chicken, sweet and sour chicken and sesame chicken. Her stand rests in the welcome shade just past the grandstand.

“They (visitors) know me,” DeMink said. “For the six years I’ve come to the Cass County Fair, they look forward to it every year.”

DeMink, who operates the stand mostly by herself, also plans to sell after the fair season. But if no one buys, she said she’ll be back again.

“If it sells, it sells,” DeMink said. “If not, I’ll be here again next year, doing the same thing.”

There are also newer, healthier choices available for patrons with a sweet tooth.

“I got the idea from someone else I know,” Breanna Schwarte, owner and operator of Breanna’s Bananas, said. “If you need a snack, it’s a bit healthier than what you’d normally find.”

Schwarte, who came to the fair with her husband and his elephant ear stand, offers chocolate-covered treats, such as strawberries, bananas, cheesecake or fiddlesticks (ice cream bars).

While Schwarte said her first year with the option has been going well, she admitted  some were skeptical at first.

“They’re not sure if it’s something they want,” she said.

“But they end up trying it, and the response has been pretty good.”

Schwarte’s stand is located to the left just through the fairgrounds entrance. The fair wraps up Saturday night.

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