The parking lot was filling up Nov. 1, as guests already in line waited for the gate to open at 4 p.m. for the start of the 2018 Volusia County Fair & Youth Show.
The Fair runs daily through Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Volusia County Fairgrounds east of DeLand on State Road 44.
I had been saving up my hungry for this moment all day, and my stomach began to growl.
I was in line at the west gate, closest to the glorious food circle. Delicious smells from grills and fryers pierced my nostrils.
Children in line were jumping up and down in excitement, anxious to tumble and twist on the rides inside, while I just wanted to devour something greasy and delicious.
Inside, I felt as if I had entered a food court Dr. Seuss had invented. The food trucks, trailers and tents all boast vibrant standout colors and slogans to grab your attention.
The hungry animal that I was didn’t wait long before ordering; a gentleman from Sirloin Tip Dinners of Mark’s Concessions reeled me in with a piece of juicy hot steak.
My first choice was decided as he piled a heaping mound of sirloin on a hoagie with peppers, onions and mushrooms. I drizzled on barbecue sauce before taking a jaws-sized bite.
You can’t miss this trailer. It’s decorated to look as if it is engulfed in flames.
As I enjoyed my sandwich, I overheard some Fair workers chatting about how amazing a place named Spaghetti Eddie’s was. They pointed me in the right direction, and I was off to stop No. 2.
Spaghetti Eddie’s, also in the food circle, has been a vendor at the Volusia County Fair for more than 40 years. The restaurant is owned by Eddie and Phyllis Porcelli, who brought their authentic New York-style pizza and Italian cuisine to Florida from upstate New York.
“We travel all over the country, bringing our flavors to different cities as they show us their flavors,” Eddie Jr. said, in a New York accent.
The lifestyle exposes him to many dialects.
“In the South, you use the word ‘y’all,’ but in Minnesota, they say, ‘Don’t ya know,’ instead,” Eddie Jr. said with a laugh.
Spaghetti Eddie’s is one of the places at the Fair where you can get a full dinner.
I chose a slice of their meat-lovers pizza, which I watched come right out of the oven and onto my plate.
It was dangerously hot, and cheese dripped from my slice. My first bite sent bits and pieces of pepperoni, sausage and bacon falling onto my plate. It was messy and delicious, just like Fair food should be.
My next recommendation came from Jason Fromm, who was tossing pizza dough as he advised me, “Cinnamon City over by the south gate has some rolls to die for.”
Another point in the right direction and I was already into the sweets.
I made it to destination No. 3, where the trailer I was looking for had a sign that read, “Cin-fully Delicious” across the top, with glowing painted pictures of cinnamon rolls.
Veronica Manganelli laughed at my awestruck expression, as I stared at the gluttonous beauties of pastry she had for sale. She made me a cinnamon roll with pecans, buttercream and caramel icing.
It was served warm, and oh, so gooey and sweet.
“In Georgia, the folks will line up for almost an hour to get one of these,” Manganelli said.
After I devoured mine and finished licking my fingers, I understood completely.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had a corn dog at the fair, and I wasn’t going to let a slightly full stomach stop that tradition.
A vendor called The Best Around had corn dogs in every part of their logo, so I gave them a shot for No. 4. This truck offers corn dogs in sizes from footlong to mini. I drizzled mine with ketchup and mustard — just like when I was 5 years old.
I walked around, watching women twirl cotton candy, folks dance to country music, and kids scream as they spun in circles on every sort of contraption. I took a giant bite of my corn dog and felt like a kid again.
Then I saw a glorious sight: More than 75 giant turkey legs smoking on a gargantuan red grill. I was suckered in immediately. My turkey leg weighed about 5 pounds, and I felt like Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones cartoon, holding his club.
The gentleman running the grill said, “I have people pay the entrance fee just to come in and buy these from me to take home.”
Oh, goodness; it was smoky and tender, and nothing makes you feel like a dinosaur more than eating a turkey leg at the fair.
Look for the monstrous red grill; you can’t miss it!
I should have put up my surrender flag a few spots back, but one more place on my list finished me off. Eatery No. 6 was Orme’s Deep Fried Treats.
I ordered the “I’m Single Combo,” a platter with a variety of battered and deep-fried items, including one Reese’s Cup, one Oreo cookie, one with butter, one with cookie dough, one Red Velvet Oreo, and one Funfetti Cake Pop.
If you have never had deep-fried desserts, I recommend taking at least a bite — it is a magnificent and pleasurable moment you will never forget.
As I was walking toward the gate, a Fair employee asked what I was eating and I explained. I asked if he would help me, and gave him the deep-fried Red Velvet Oreo. He enthusiastically accepted.
Fair food may not be for those seeking an especially healthful option, but a trip to the Volusia County Fair would be great for a dieter’s cheat day.
I refused to board any rides after completing this food journey, but I will be back for that fun when I’m not so full.