Tasting the treats at Del Norte's annual festival
Past the flashy signage for beer-battered this and that, beyond the barrage of carnival games and behind the Silver Streak, stands an unassuming little cantina, home to Del Norte's own fair food.
The fanfare is minimal. But there is plenty of fare. And plenty of fans. Both of which only come together like this once a year.
"The doughboys are amazing," local teen Samantha Green exclaimed while she and a group of friends stood in line for the Zipper, just hours after the Del Norte County Fair kicked off its four-day run Thursday.
"We don't go on the really spinny ones after we eat," the teenaged girls agreed.
Meal-wise, Green suggested the Indian tacos.
The Norris family of Klamath first brought this recipe to fairgoers last year.
"We make traditional fried bread topped with beans and the other toppings," explained Brigette Norris, as her husband Hoppow served up a heaping plate.
"I learned to make this from an elder when I was a little girl," she said.
Another Zipper enthusiast, 15-year-old Chaela Miller, recommended the hand-dipped corn dogs and fries. She and her grandmother are among the many volunteers who help make and sell these fair staples every year to benefit the Masonic Lodge.
A few doors down, the sign called it "cheese corn."The chef had a more nuanced perspective.
"The corn has lime cilantro aioli, which is basically a type of mayonnaise, and is rolled in cotija, a hard Mexican cheese. The ribs are my ambrosia recipe," said Bethel Christian Center volunteer David McPhail. He used to have a restaurant in Crescent City called the Ambrosia Grill. This is his first year organizing the Rib Shack to support the church.
At the opposite end of the building, Buddy's Burgers were selling like ... well, like hot Buddy's Burgers available only once yearly at the fair.
"Who's next?" Deborah Cole boomed as her son Stephan tended the grill. Someone readily stepped up.
Two napkins are standard issue for what might be Del Norte's most beloved occasional pastry: the "amazing" doughboys.
Members of Job's Daughters sell them to raise money for charitable causes and an annual trip they take together. Each sweet fried bread dough concoction leaves a trail of sugar and grease in its wake.
"It's not health food. We don't sell it as health food," Job's Daughters volunteer Ky McClure said.
Only two or three people know the secret recipe, which was acquired with a food truck from the Church of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1990s, said Jeannine Galatioto, a leader for the group of girls ages 10andndash;21.
"Every once in a while people try to make something like it," McClure said.
"And it never turns out the same," Galatioto finished, with a knowing smile.
The Triplicate spied a lot of fair food that's good for your body in the usual sense of the words.
But it wasn't for sale. The Home Arts Annex was full of veggies, jams, jellies, legumes, herbs, berries, fruits and much more -- the jewels of Del Norte's gardens, the pride of its kitchens.
One award-winning zucchini was precariously balanced on a tiny paper plate. It outweighed many of the infants at the breast- feeding station, where the fare would surely be a blue ribbon contender in "health food," if such a title existed.
This mellow spot for moms and kids to take five, feed or clean up, was organized by the Del Norte County Breast Feeding Coalition, a group of doctors, nurses, interested mothers, public health officials and volunteers whose aim is to make nursing the norm.
-Reach Emily Jo Cureton at firstname.lastname@example.org.