I hadn't been to a county fair since my kids were little. The fair is where I got my first taste of a funnel cake, a sweet delicacy that's classic fair food. As an excuse to see if it was still as good as I remember, I took the grandchildren to the fair to show them what farm living, fun rides and funnel cakes were all about.

We headed over early on Sunday hoping to beat the crowd and the heat, but it wasn't long before the fairgrounds were packed and the temperature was raging. Still, what's a county fair without a bunch of people running around in sweat-soaked shirts? We wanted these kids to have the full experience.

After paying for parking, paying the entry fees and paying for the kids' cowboy hats and sunglasses, we headed for the small animal exhibit so the kids could see hamsters, guinea pigs and snakes. All the animals were for sale, but we held onto our money and our willpower and herded the grandkids on to the model train station.

While the grown men were fascinated by the tiny trains and realistic terrain, the grown women swung by the shopping kiosks, hoping to find something that didn't look like it came from the fair. Meanwhile, the kids were getting hungry, so it was time for a food break.

Food is the only reason my husband came along to the fair, and he pretty much ate his way through it like a very hungry caterpillar. First he tried a Pickle Dog, a pickle stuffed with a hot dog and deep-fried. Then he had the deep-fried artichoke hearts. Next he tried the Krispy Kreme Burger, a hamburger sandwiched between a deep-fried doughnut. Then he sampled the shark fries -- battered, deep-fried shark meat.

For dessert, he tasted the chocolate-covered bacon, deep-fried watermelon, and deep-fried pineapple. And he ate everything without having to visit the fair ER.

After pigging out, it was time for the pig races, so we found a spot in the hot sun and watched little pigs do tricks for the next hour. Next, we visited their parents at the big pig sty and got to watch them get their hair cut -- good times.

After three hours in the heat, everyone was too tired to go on. So we bought the kids some giant blow-up dolphins, trekked back to our car and headed home for grilled (not fried) hamburgers and the old swimming hole.

I never got to taste the funnel cakes. Oh well. My husband's going to create one of his own county fair concoctions -- a pickle, stuffed with lobster, covered in batter, wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate and deep-fried.

As for me, I'll just have to wait until next year to get my favorite fair food.

Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com.

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