All’s Fair (and Fried) at the Colorado State Fair

I just took a trip to the Colorado State Fair. This is the fair’s 150th year and it has been in the same location in Pueblo since just after the turn of the 20th century. Rich in family history and traditions, the fair is a perfect day trip packed with countless rides, attractions, vendors, music, and livestock.
But I went for the food.

You smell it before you even walk in and see it as soon as you walk in: smoked meats, foot-long corn dogs, cookie buckets. The vendors and food stalls are lined up almost in a loop, making it easy to see the options, and there are plenty of shaded picnic tables where you can stop to enjoy your purchases.

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We started with the turkey leg, a fair favorite that was a bit disappointing this year and pricey at $18. It was hard to bite and dry, but huge. But our next election atoned for that. The fried cheese on a stick was crispy, full of cheese, and easy to hold. Maybe it was the Italian in me, but I was expecting a bit of stringy mozzarella. Unfortunately, it was filled with liquid nacho cheese, but it was still $7.

Elote in a cup “Elote style” filled with that great Mexican mix of lime, mayonnaise, Tajín and butter, right in a cup. I’ve always loved corn, and this definitely satisfied me – the mayonnaise, spices, sweetness, and all that butter made for a delicious gourmet walk-in meal. At $8 this might have been the best thing I ever ate.

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The jalapenos (two for $9) were piping hot, both in spice and temperature. These are not the fried kind, but roasted bell peppers wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with liquid cheese, served fresh off the grill. I love spicy food and I thought these were great, but my pregnant girlfriend doesn’t. Still, this was enough to inspire me to return to the Pueblo Chile y Frijoles Festival at the end of the month.

I always have a hard time choosing between candy and caramel apples. The caramel version reminds me of childhood and nights on the beach, but the caramel apples are perfect in their simplicity. I had just reached the candy maze (another staple just before this stop), so with a belly full of hard candy I went the candy route ($6 per apple). The apple was so crisp and the caramel so creamy that she could have picked two, one in each hand.

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But then I wouldn’t have had a free hand for that foot long corn dog, the best fair meal and a $12 deal!

My latest find was a Fried Cheesecake, a perfect combination of warm fried dough and cold cheesecake, topped with whatever your heart desires, and a great dessert for only $8.

I was so full I couldn’t even go for the Pass Key sausage sandwich. Fortunately, you can get them year-round at one of Pueblo’s two Pass Key restaurants, owned by the Pagano family for over fifty years.

The Colorado State Fair continues from 11 am to 11 pm on Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5 at 1001 Beulah Avenue Avenue in Pueblo; Learn more here.

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