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State Fair’s Southeast mainstays anticipate big crowd

August 27, 2018

Some of the Minnesota State Fair’s culinary mainstays come from Southeast Minnesota.

Ollie’s crab fritters make most lists of must-try fair foods each year. This will be the 15th year Oliver Regal has brought the unique fried fare to the fair from Stewartville. It was voted one of fairgoers’ favorites in 2011.

Regal, who used to live in the Caribbean, adapted the recipe from his father’s conch fritters. He switched it to crab because it’s more familiar and available.

“We pretty much keep it the same,” he said.

The offering usually draws the curious and adventurous. He also sees familiar faces each year.

“We’ve built friendships over this,” he said.

“We get a lot of people who make the effort to come back to our booth and say, ‘This is really good,’” Regal said. “That really means a lot to me.”

After last year’s record-setting fair attendance, Regal said he is prepared to serve more people than ever. He expanded his booth space, he said.

“I doubled my production just to be safe,” Regal said.

Regal added he thinks it’s possible the total 12-day attendance tops 2 million for the first time in fair history.

“I hope so,” he said. “And I hope they all stop at my stand.”

Tim Duren, who is coordinating the Austin-based Hormel Spam booths, said he is prepared to sell thousands of Spam T-shirts. Even before the fair opened, people were asking to buy the recognizable souvenir.

“We’ve already had several people stop by to ask about them,” Duren said while he was setting up Wednesday. “We’re not even open yet.”

Duren said he is expecting good crowds this year and is stocked up for them.

“We won’t run out,” Duren said.

The SPAM booth will also feature an air-conditioned tiny house where people can sit, relax and get out of the elements — whatever they might be at the time.

The Spam food booth near the grandstands will feature the original Spam burger, Spam breakfast sandwich and spam curds. The new jalapeño spam curds are expected to be popular, Duren said.

Fairgoers will be thirsty for Spring Grove Soda Pop Inc., another Southeast Minnesota mainstay. Maybe it was the weather, but sales of the Spring Grove-made soda at the fair have grown in recent years, said Michael Gillespie.

“We’ve had some tremendous growth over the last couple years,” Gillespie said.

Some fairgoers stock up, he added.

“They’ll buy two or three at a time,” Gillespie said.

Spring Grove will have all nine of their flavors. At the fair, the top picks are: cream soda, black cherry, lemon sour and rhuberry (strawberry rhubarb). As for breaking attendance records, Gillespie said they’ll be ready if that happens.

“As long as the weather holds out and it’s not too hot, I would be surprised if it’s another record year,” he said.

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