From the incredible to the inedible– The food and fun that set the Badger State’s fair apart from the rest.
It’s marketed as the “Best 11 Days of Summer” for a reason: The Wisconsin State Fair has a rich history of bringing together people, animals, music, carnival rides, show booths, and some of the weirdest foods you’ve ever seen.
From the inaugural event held in Janesville back in 1851 to the 171st annual this year, more than a million people from across the Midwest make the trip to West Allis every summer for a taste of Wisconsin.
Here are a few things you’ll only find at the Wisconsin State Fair:
Cream Puffs the Size of Your Fist
The iconic Original Cream Puff (yes, it’s trademarked and capitalized), is the most popular food at the fair. First sold in 1924, an estimated 400,000 will be consumed this year at multiple locations throughout the 200-acre grounds. During the 11-day event, 150 bakers known as “Team Cream Puff” work 24/7 to keep up with demand! While “The Original” is only sold at the State Fair, the team has recently expanded its menu, offering strawberry, pumpkin spice, latte, candy cane, and cocoa cream puffs at seasonal pop-up events.
Tip: Eat one at the fair, and then take a three- or six-pack to-go!
Carnival Classics… with Bugs?!
There are not one but two new foods that feature insects on the menu in 2022. The Exotic Meat Grill serves an “Arctic Bug Blast Slush:”: a raspberry slushie topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of edible bugs, including scorpion. “Yes, they are real,” a sign on the booth confirms. Still hungry? Head over to All Things Jerky for a chocolate-coated apple that’s finished off with edible June bugs, crickets, worms, and ants… served on a stick, of course!
The State Drink on a Stick
While milk is Wisconsin’s official state beverage, Dairyland’s most famous cocktail is the whiskey-laden Old Fashioned. And at the fair, you can enjoy it with a twist. Freese’s Candy Shop is serving a Brandy Old Fashioned S’more On-a-Stick: a whipped cream bar, sandwiched between two graham crackers, coated in milk chocolate, drizzled with white chocolate, and garnished with dried orange and a cherry! The treat is one of this year’s Sporkies finalists, which brings us to…
The “Sporkies” Finalists
The State Fair is known for its unique and unusual foods, which is why organizers created their own annual food competition, The Sporkies. This year’s champion is the Peño Pretzel Popper Brat from Gertrude’s Pretzels: a 10-inch jalapeño cheddar bratwurst wrapped in fresh pretzel dough, topped with coarse salt and fresh cut jalapeños, drizzled with white cheddar sauce, and served with a house-made jalapeño cream cheese. Need even more spice? Other Sporkies finalists include Black Bean Burrito Balls, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Chicken On-a-Stick, and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch Latte to wash it all down!
The Giant Slide
Fair week isn’t only about food. The super-sized, 200 foot slide has been a favorite of kids of all ages since it first appeared more than 50 years ago. Like the Spin City (carnival) section of the fair, you have to pay extra to ride down, but it’s affordable! Only $3 a turn.
Wisconsin Products Pavilion
It would be weird if any other state had a building named after ours, but it’s what inside that sets this pavilion apart. Wisconsin-grown apples. Wisconsin-tapped honey. Wisconsin-made cheese. The Products Pavilion is a celebration of Wisconsin products and food, served by some of the producers themselves.
Tip: Save this stop for the middle of the day, when temperatures (and crowds) are at their peak. It’s very well-air conditioned. Gotta keep that Wisconsin dairy cold!
The Largest Dairy Cattle Show in the Country
Animals are also a big part of Wisconsin’s fair, and the annual youth show is the largest of its kind in America. Children across the state prepare all year to showcase their animals; they have to register before January for the chance to show. During the fair, not only are there formal shows, but up-close-and-personal animal encounters. When not “on stage,” walk through the dairy barn to see just how big and well-behaved the animals act.