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Alabama National Fair-Montgomery Alabama

WHAT: Alabama National Fair and Agriculture Exhibition

WHERE: Montgomery, Alabama

WHEN: October 28, 2016-November 6, 2016

My entire life I have lived near farming communities and yet, I have never lived on a farm. Surrounded by the farming way of life that included generations of farmers, many of my own ancestors who have held strong ties to their land. From Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa, to the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, I love visiting the regional fairs. As a child, I was involved in “City Slickers” 4-H club. I showed dogs, learned (or attempted) to sew, and entered my garden goods.

As a nomadic adult, I find that a fair is the city meets the country, one can learn a lot about our ties to farming and the character of a community at large. I was lucky to have had an opportunity to visit the Iowa State Fair listed in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die: The Oldest and Largest State Fair in America it has loads of old school fun, animals, entertainment, and fantastic food. In fact, my most memorable fair food was eaten at this fair.  A “Beef Sundae” may sound horrible to you but it was seriously delicious and haunts my memories. A layer of mashed potatoes, chipped Iowa beef, and gravy, two types of cheese, and topped off with a cherry tomato.  This dish has been featured on The Travel Channel. Iowa Cattleman’s Beef Quarters Beef Sundae

Of course, visiting the State Fair in my new home state of Alabama was high on my bucket list. I went with four things in mind: food, animals, and entertainment.

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Alabama National Fair 

 

The Food– The Alabama National Fair is put on by the Montgomery Kiwanis Club. From the fair proceeds, they have been able to contribute more than 7 million dollars in education and charitable causes.  And, 2.6 million dollars to the winners of the fair competitions. To make this a great experience, they work in conjunction with Wade Shows Inc. This  award winning company brings the thrilling rides, some of the entertainment and the food vendors. Yes, there is cotton candy, pizza, funnel cakes, elephant ears, roasted peanuts, deep-fried Oreo’s.

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This Florida Vendor served some delicious peanuts.

But, I wondered if this fair had any local vendors?  I walked that fair hunting for food specific to this region and I have to say that I had a difficult time zeroing in on my target. By complete luck, I was overheard asking a vendor if any food at this fair was local. The man who overheard my question happened to be on the fair board and gave me a private tour of a few local foods. There were two that I found of interest.

I learned that there is a local group called Highland Garden Men’s Club. This group has been running a locally owned food booth at the fair for many years.

Highland Gardens

Highland Gardens Men’s Club

The sign read Famous Bar-B-Q but I learned that the all-time favorite specialty is called camp stew. Camp Stew is generally made from ingredients such as chicken, corn, okra, butter beans and tomatoes.

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Camp Stew at The Alabama National Fair

Here is a link to a fantastic Camp Stew recipe that includes pork. Thanks to The Alabama Farmer’s FederationCamp Stew    This group also served hamburgers, hot dog’s, barbecue sandwiches and to top it off there are homemade pies for $2.00. YUM!   There are places to sit down and eat and the food is priced at a reasonable price point.

Thanks to my private tour guide, I was shown Alabama’s Best Corn Dog. Made with Alabama’s Kelley’s Sausage and served with Alabama’s ALAGA syrup. Cane syrup with a little bit of corn syrup.) Somehow, I lost the photo of this food but picture a gigantic corn dog made of sausage instead of hot dogs and syrup.

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Alabama’s Best Corn Dog

MEGatip: This would be a fantastic breakfast fair food! One interesting thing to note Kelly Foods was just acquired by  a Texas company.

Although I tried the local foods, I have to admit that my favorite food was ” Pork Butt On A Stick.”

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Pork Butt Alabama National Fair

While the name may not be appetizing,  it was cooked to my order without salt or seasoning,  grilled to perfection, and simply delicious!

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Pork Butt on the grill. Alabama National Fair

Of course, my favorite part is always walking through the barns.  By a longshot, this was the smallest animal exhibit I have ever seen.   Yet, it was there celebrating our hard working farmer’s and the youth who are our future in farming.

 

Animals- 

There were big cows of the non-breathing type on display

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Beef Cattleman’s Association at Alabama National Fair

 

 

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Alabama National Fair cow

And inside the barns, there were the cows resting for their big show.

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Alabama National Fair Cows

Groomed to perfection and getting some beauty rest. Bovine beauties!

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Groomed to a perfection AL National Fair

And some who are waiting to be milked

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Alabama National Fair Cow

There were chickens of many breeds and colors

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Chickens of the AL National Fair

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Al National Fair fowl

And a fantastic display of eggs hatching.   Although this photo was  captured through glass and is blurry, it was an attraction that many people found fascinating. MEGatip: Kids would love this!

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Stages of chickens hatching AL National Fair

Passing through the vendor areas, I smelled Tucker’s Pecans roasting and enjoyed the displays, I love learning about the different products and services in this area.

On the Midway, there were tons of games.  Of course, I liked this one.  Go Pack Go!

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Claymaker at Alabama National Fair

 

And rides for every age group and thrill set.

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Alabama National Fair Ride on!

I chose to see the hog races and thought it was fun.  I was thinking that it would have been fun to come with a group of friends and bet some dimes on these races even though gambling is illegal in Alabama.

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The Ham Bone Express at The Alabama National Fair

After, visiting the barns, I realized that this certainly could not be a State Fair. I was a bit confused.

Alabama state fair truck

Grandpa’s Farm South Alabama State Fair, Montgomery, AL

Curious as a cat, I did some research when I got home. I learned a few facts.

Formerly, the Alabama State Fair had been held in Birmingham at The State Fairgrounds beginning in 1947. However, the fair was highly unattended and near an area of high crime. The Alabama State Fair Authority went bankrupt and was dissolved sometime around the year 2001. No state fair has been held on a regular basis since; an effort to revive the state fair again in 2008 took place at the Verizon Wireless Music Center in nearby Pelham. (The “Alabama National Fair” in Montgomery is unrelated.) In 2009 there was an Alabama State Fair. My new understanding is that The Alabama State Fair Festival” has been held in Pelham.

This fair runs through November 6th. There are some fantastic musicians, competitions, baking classes given by ALAGA, a wild game cook-off, swine, goat, sheep and dairy exhibitions. There are also art, photography, floral and bakery exhibits. There is the hog racing, lumberjacks, family circus, ninja experience, and sandscaping. Even though I did not get to a “State Fair,” I thought that this fair had something to offer for everyone and was worth a look. There are many days with reduced admission making this visit as affordable as a fair can be.  See below for links.

The bad. I saw a three-legged sheep on display and I wanted to take this beautiful and yet sad animal home to live out his/her days with dignity.

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Al National Fair-The Ugly

“We know too much, and what might have been excused in other times can no longer stand up to reason. … with that understanding comes moral responsibility.” –Wayne Pacelle

MEGastars: 4 ****

MEGatips: 

  1. The Kiwanis Club Alabama National Fair website outlines the schedules in booklet form, as well as the daily events and reduced admission days. Alabama National Fair 2016 2016 AL National Fair
  2. Wade Fairs has a listing of all of the rides available at this fair. Ride on!
  3. I like to visit during the day.
  4.  Located at 1555 Federal Drive in Montgomery, AL.Parking at the fairgrounds is $5.00
  5. Do something interesting every day!
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