The most popular part of the fair is still the food

Chorizos, corn on the cob and ice cream potatoes are some of the annual favorites.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comAugust 18, 2013 

Mountain Home resident Courtney Ireland stepped inside the gates at the Western Idaho Fair on Saturday with three things on her must-have list.

1. Pronto Pups.

2. Strawberry lemonade.

3. The Idaho Ice Cream Potato.

"This is the best thing at the fair," said Ireland, taking a spoonful of ice cream Saturday afternoon from what appeared to be a baked potato in a cardboard boat. "If I had to skip some of them, this would be the one thing I wouldn't miss."

Family friend, Jerry Prano, also from Mountain Home, agreed.

"I had one last year and searched for one again this year. It was good," he said.

The frozen potato has been a favorite of fairgoers for several years. It was developed by Chef Lou Aaron, owner of the Westside Drive-In on State Street in Boise.

Ireland said she was willing to share the treat with her daughter, Isabella, 5, but no one else. She playfully scowled at Kathie Golightly when her mother left her funnel cake and stuck her spoon into Ireland's ice cream.

Down food row, Madalen Bieter Lete grilled an order of Basque solomo, pork loin marinated in spices, sliced thin and served with roasted red peppers.

At the same time, she used a pair of tongs to scoop up shredded lamb from a pot and placed it on a bun with grilled onions.

The most popular item at the booth sponsored by the Oinkari Basque Dancers is a chorizo on a bun. During the fair's 10-day run, members of the dance troupe and other volunteers will serve up thousands of chorizos - mostly to a non-Basque audience.

"It's by far the most popular item," said Amy Hormaechea Wray, who has worked at the booth for a half-dozen years.

The chorizos are supplied by Gem Meat Packing Co. of Garden City.

The Oinkari Basque Dancers have operated a food booth at the fair - which helps raise money for the group's travel expenses and equipment costs - for more than five decades. The group started out with a booth at the old fairgrounds at North Orchard and West Irving streets and moved with the fair to its current location in Garden City.

The corn booth operated by Mountain Rescue dates from 1965. The group's volunteers expect to sell 12,500 ears of boiled and buttered corn during the fair.

Gregg Rettschlag, the group's vice-president, said he's "awed" at how popular an item as simple as corn remains among fairgoers.

"It has a really sweet flavor. That's what I like about it," Rettschlag said.

Dozens of bags of fresh corn are delivered daily during the fair by Don and Donna Heffner of Volcanic Farms of Horseshoe Bend. Volunteers shuck the corn, placed it in a galvanized holding tank filled with water and then boiled for seven minutes before being taken out, skewered with a wooden handle, slathered with butter and wrapped in paper.

Volunteer Mike Johnson said he eats his fill of corn during the fair.

"When the fair is over, I don't eat any more corn until the next year's fair," he said.

On Saturday, volunteer Tom Nodzu was in charge of cooking the corn. He has worked at the booth since the 1980s.

"It's a fun job. I work with a good group of people and it's for a good cause," Nodzu said.

Profits help provide more than half of the group's $35,000 to $45,000 annual budget. Mountain Rescue assists with searches and recovery operations, mainly in Boise County.

Four-year-old Charlie Farris was content with a Pronto Pup, opting for a plain corn dog, without mustard.

He attended the fair's second day with his grandfather Buster Farris and cousin Emma Barker, 11, who was drinking a strawberry lemonade.

"We all enjoy coming to the fair," Buster Farris said. "I'm 66 and I've probably been to the fair 58 years."

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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