Fairgoers display appetite for fried
Food tops list of favorites at 2010 fair, survey shows
Saturday, November 27, 2010 09:08 PM
By Kathy Lynn Gray
The Columbus Dispatch
All things fried and fattening topped the popularity chart at the Ohio State Fair this year.
A close second: mooing cows, squealing pigs and whinnying horses.
With food No. 1 and livestock No. 2, amusement rides came in a distant third when fairgoers ranked their favorites for survey takers as they exited the fairgrounds this past summer.
That's no surprise to fair spokeswoman Christina Leeds. "Coming to the fair always goes back to food," Leeds said. "It's a unique selling point for us."
The survey, the first since 2003, involved interviews with more than 300 visitors exiting the main gate on eight days of the 12-day fair. Twenty-five percent were younger than 35; 31percent were 55 or older. Fifty-fivepercent had a household income of $60,000 or more, and three out of five lived in central Ohio.
Slightly more than half - 52 percent - said food was their favorite part of the fair, closely followed by livestock, which 43 percent chose. Just 21 percent chose rides, followed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources park at 13 percent and commercial exhibits and shopping at 11 percent. Participants were allowed to choose as many as three favorites.
And what foods were fairgoers looking for?
Fried mostly, according to the "food finder" application they could use on their mobile phones for the first time this year.
Of the 9,022 searches to find food on the grounds during the fair, 1,290 used the keyword fried, a review found. Bacon was a distant second with 456 searches, followed by deep, corn and cheese.
Fair favorites of fries and funnel (for funnel cake) had fewer searches, perhaps because they're so common at fair stands.
Jim Tucker, president and chief executive officer of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, said animals, food and rides are usually the top favorites among fairgoers everywhere.
"Probably animals are the most popular thing now, I think, because in urban areas young children are so far removed from farm life," he said. "They see more zoo animals than they do farm animals."
As for food, Tucker said fairgoers want something fun and novel. This year, they stood in long lines at the Kentucky State Fair for a calorie bomb: A hamburger patty encased in Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then fried.
"It was a hit," Tucker said.
Andy Klotz, public relations manager for the Indiana State Fair, said the "doughnut burger" also was a huge success at that fair in August.
Klotz said the Indiana fair surveys fairgoers each year as they leave, and the top reasons people say they've come are the food, exhibits and animals.
What don't fairgoers like? Nothing, said 43 percent of those questioned after the Ohio State Fair. Attractions came under fire by 15 percent of those questioned, while 11 percent mentioned cost, 10 percent said weather, and 8 percent said the amount of walking involved.
Weather is always a complaint, whether it's blazing hot or sloshy and rainy, Tucker said. "The three most important things to remember about a fair are weather, weather and weather."