It's often said where there's a crisis, there is opportunity. In 2020, I think the saying, "where there's a cancellation, there is creativity" is probably more fitting.
As state fairs across the nation axe their 2020 events in the name of safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, some vendors, including our pork industry partners, are getting creative both on and off the midway to make sure folks can still get their fix of fair food.
The Illinois Pork Producers Association is opening up the Pork Patio for lunch on Aug. 14 and 21. They will be serving their top two sellers, Chop-on-a-stick and pork burgers, beginning at 11 a.m. CT both days, until they run out. They will also offer chips and bottled water, and will be serving underneath the Commodities Pavilion, across from the Grandstand at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill. They politely ask attendees to consider wearing a face mask and socially distancing while waiting in line. There will be limited seating offered at the patio, but patrons can feel free to grab and go.
Kicking off this weekend and extending over three more weekends this summer, the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wis. promises to satisfy fair food cravings by offering a Fair Food Drive-Thru. Vendors and menu items will change each week. For safety, all Fair Food Drive-Thru items are intended to be enjoyed at home. All service will be drive-up only and participants are asked to stay in their vehicles to maintain social distancing. Week 1 vendors include the "Pork Schoppe," where attendees can get a butterfly pork sandwich, a famous pork burger, or even a Wisconsin Pork Association bundle of four pork chops, two pork roasts, four ground pork packages, eight brats and special recipes to make at home.
Indiana Pork has teamed up with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association and American Dairy Association Indiana to serve food during the modified Indiana State Fair 4-H Livestock Competition in Indianapolis, Ind. Operating out of the Dairy Bar, the three organizations will be working together to offer a limited menu of their traditional state fair favorites. The concession plans to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 7-9 and Aug. 14-16. The menu includes popular items such as pork burgers, milkshakes, ice cream and smoked beef brisket sandwiches.
The Minnesota State Fair will host the State Fair Food Parade Aug. 20-23, 27-30 and Sept. 3-7. This historic event in St. Paul, Minn. will be a drive-thru experience featuring 16 vendors and a chance to get your state fair food fix while supporting the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Participating food vendors include Pronto Pups, Pitchfork Sausage/Butcher Boys, Foot Long Hot Dogs & Corn Dogs and more. State Fair food vendors will be located along a 1.5-mile route through the fairgrounds and all food service will be conducted at the vehicle window following health and safety protocols. A limited number of vehicle tickets will be sold per hour and must be purchased online in advance. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, July 31 and are only available online.
These are just a few examples of how our fine pork products will still be served this summer despite the 2020 state fair cancellations. Hats off to these organizations for getting creative and keeping the fair spirit alive, at least in our bellies!