December 28, 2014

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First-year food booths at Lorain County Fair challenged to find a following

SUZY PETERS/CHRONICLE

Ron Upton brought the “Belgian Waffle on a Stick” stand to the Lorain County Fair for the first time this year. SUZY PETERS/CHRONICLE

WELLINGTON — Gone are the days of purely traditional food booths where fairgoers relied on forms of fried dough, hot dogs on sticks and cans of pop for lunch and dinner.

On Monday, the 169th annual Lorain County Fair opened its gates, and with it, numerous stands selling food that ranged from teriyaki noodles prepared in a traditional wok, to sloppy mixes of barbecue pulled pork and macaroni and cheese.

For a lot of new booth owners, including the owner of the food stand “Belgian Waffle on a Stick,” Ron Upton, the variety brings something different to a traditional county fair.

“You don’t see too many things from Belgium (at the fair),” said Upton, who is attending his first Lorain County Fair. He only opened the stand — a food truck complete with four waffle makers and a crepe stovetop — a year ago as homage to his wife who is originally from Belgium.

“She always made these waffles,” he said, adding that he makes the waffles using a traditional Belgian recipe, which he believes “brings more culture” to the fair.

Belgian waffles on a stick are just one of the new food options at this year's Lorain County Fair.

Belgian waffles on a stick are just one of the new food options at this year’s Lorain County Fair.

By putting the waffle on a stick, Upton said he tries to mix the sense of culture with a traditional fair vibe. “(Food on a stick) is a fair thing,” he said.

Florida-based Island Noodles is another stand that aims to bring more variety to the fair with teriyaki noodles and vegetables cooked in a large wok and doled out for $7 a carton.

“It offers people a healthier option,” Joel Johnston said. Johnston was running the booth Tuesday and saw people both apprehensive and excited about the new option. “It’s got a high flavor profile,” he said, adding that adults and children alike enjoyed the food.

However it’s not easy being a new flavor in an old venue.

“It’s always slow at the beginning,” Upton said, adding that he hands out free samples at the start of the week to convince people to come back and try a waffle.

Johnston said his booth is also having trouble getting people to try their food so early in the week. It’s a big change, Johnston said, from the Columbus Food Truck Festival that Island Noodles participated in last week.

But Johnston remains hopeful.

“Once we get a name out there … it has always picked up for us.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.

Check out our live social media coverage from the fair. Our comprehensive Fair coverage can be found here