Politics, Cabbages, and Grilling Contests at the Alaska State Fair

Politics, Cabbages, and Grilling Contests at the Alaska State Fair

Food & Drink

Politics, Cabbages, and Grilling Contests at the Alaska State Fair

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Perhaps the biggest news from the Alaska State Fair is the announcement that Alaska’s governor, Sarah Palin, is John McCain’s pick for his running mate. It led to a couple of state fairs figuring into the speculation, since Palin was reportedly slated to be at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer to introduce the new state quarter. And, another frequently mentioned VP-contender, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, said during a radio show that he would not be with McCain, saying, “I plan to be at the state fair.”

With the political news still being digested, let’s go to the fair! For one thing, the Alaska State Fair offers over 60 food vendors. You can see them all in their food guide, with everything from “Anchorage Scottish Rite Bodies” offering, “Golden-fried halibut, shrimp, chicken and steak fries plus ice-cream delights including shakes and cones,” to “Yukon Concessions” with its, “Delicious treats including almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts, salted and glazed, fresh off the roaster.” That’s A-Y covered (sorry, no Z in the crowd).

In between are elephant ears, funnel cakes, cotton candy, peach waffles, plus Mexican food, Cajun food, Texas BBQ, and a few Alaskan specialties including crab cakes, pork chop on a stick and batter-fried cheese curds.

The Alaska State Fair started in July 1936, when the Matanuska Valley Fair Association was formed.
The first Fair was held on the grounds of the local school, and coincided with the opening of the Knik River Bridge, which linked Anchorage and the Valley by road for the first time. This, combined with the railroad, meant that people from all over the state could attend. There were reportedly hundreds of agricultural entries, including giant cabbages, grain, carrots, onions, celery, peas and other vegetables.

The giant cabbage contest tradition began in 1941, when Colonel Ohlson, Manager of the Alaska Railroad, offered $25 for the largest cabbage. Max Sherrod of the Valley took the prize with a 23 pounder. Like the Fair, that record has grown over the years; In 2000, Barb Everingham set the current record for the largest cabbage, with her 105.6 pounder.

The Alaska Fusion Grilling Contest

A primary event is the Alaska Fusion Grilling Contest, which is billed an “an Alaskan picnic with an ethnic twist.” In this event, Alaskans are invited to show off their heritage or their favorite flavors by creating their own Alaskan Picnic using various meats, Alaskan produce and an ethnic twist to make them unique. A panel of judges will decide the winners and award ribbons and prizes. Categories include grilled side dish, hot dogs/brats, burgers, and desserts.

For more about the Alaska State Fair (which ends on September 1), click here, and let us know if you grow the biggest cabbage!

Photo Credit for Grilling Contest: Alaska State Fair

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