Gluten Free at the Fair | Triumph Dining

bradford-county-fairIt’s summer so that means fair and carnival season again. There are rides to ride, games to play and of course food to taste. But is there really anything at a carnival that those of us with food restrictions can eat?

At a chocolate themed fair this weekend in Wisconsin, there was a ton of food. Here are some of the food items for sale: corn dogs, fries, funnel cake, caramel apples, fried pickles, fried Oreos, snow cones, brats, hot dogs and chicken on a stick. Those were options outside of the “chocolate” tent, which worked on a separate ticketing system. In the chocolate tent there were the standard chocolate covered fruit, cookies, cakes and other sweet concoctions mostly off limits to me.

In a pinch I might have opted for a taffy apple but doing some simple searches tells me that those aren’t always safe from wheat, which could be used to coat the apples or as a thickener in the caramel. Obviously it is not a safe option if you don’t eat nuts.

Unfortunately, it seems that many items at the fairgrounds revolve around batter and a deep fryer. I’ve heard of deep fried candy bars, fried Coke, fried guacamole, and just this weekend learned of fried butter on a stick. This is literally a full stick of butter, battered then fried! I’ll let you form your own opinions about that but it is decidedly not gluten-free.

What do other fairgoers do? Even if you could find a food item that’s not made with gluten, the chances of it avoiding contact with other contaminants in that small prep area are slim. I opted to eat lunch before we left. I bought a snow cone for the kids, some bottled water for myself and concentrated on riding rides and playing games.

Has anyone ever seen a gluten free stand at the fair or carnival in their area? If you do, please share the info, the menu and the location. Happy summer!


27 thoughts on “Gluten Free at the Fair | Triumph Dining”

  1. I couldn’t find a gluten-free stand, but I did find plenty of good options. I enjoyed, at the Western Washington Fair (aka “The Puyallup”). I ate two ears of fresh corn, roasted and slathered in butter and salt! Also fresh fruit skewers, and a stir-fried veggie stand (with rice). This is Seattle, so even the Fair had Asian-style veggie stir fries! Good luck to you!

  2. I often find French fry stands where all they sell is French fries cooked in peanut oil. ( made from fresh potatoes)

  3. Lemonade stands! Water, ice, sugar and lemons! And find a vendor that only sells french fries……they usually use vegetable oil and they cut the fries right before they go in the fryer. Hint: walk around the back of the food stand and you will usually see what they’re cooking with piled up in back, but be sure to always ask…never assume!

  4. Also, corn on the cob is usually safe at the fair. They grill it in the husks and then dip it in melted butter. It’s usually at a stand alone stand so there isn’t cross contamination.

  5. I’ve found some vendors that just sell French fries only (no onion rings or battered products). You can watch them cut up the fries and put them right into the oil. I always ask and either the owner or a manager is on site and verifies the oil has not been contaminated and that’s all they fry is potatoes with no batter or flour. Its a nice treat to add to our packed lunch.

  6. I go up and ask if they have anything gluten free. I hear so often, “people keep asking for it, we are considering carrying some”. If we all keep asking, they will start having it.

  7. I have see a number of times now – in Colorado and in NJ and NY Asian/Indian/Chinese/Thai vendors that specifically listed GF items on their booths.

    I have also had luck with Greek food – but too scary because they probably use the same tongs for the lamb that they do for the pitas – I asked for special care and my luck was the young lady was familiar and versed – sorted out for me safely.

    Mexican Food Vendors are sometimes safe too…

    BTW Frank… – Not ALL Kettle corn is safe – be careful.

  8. I just found out that a fair in my area [SE MI] called the arts, beats & eats will have the foods marked on the vendor menu’s as GF, etc. Very excited to go a fair & be able to eat without worry!

  9. If you can find a dedicated salad place, they are sometimes okay. And, I have found some fairs where there are vendors that just make French fries (usually from potatoes you can actually watch them slice yourself). There was also a vendor at the Durham fair last year that was selling gf cookies/biscotti made in their dedicated gf failure in NY. I can’t remember the name of it, but it is probably on the website. If they have a baked potato truck, that’s usually okay. I will take the cross-contamination risk myself if I really need protein and get a burger without the bun, walking them through how to handle it if needed and they are not busy, but I never recommend it for others. Oh, and I have found a couple of places that do turkey legs. Those might be okay. I don’t like turkey, so I have never really inquired. Good luck!

  10. The Minnesota State Fair doesn’t have a specific “gluten-free stand” as discussed in the article. But Twin Cities ROCK, Celiac Center of MN and The Savvy Celiac is assembling a gluten-free state fair food/vendor list for Fairgoers for 2014. GF eaters should still ask their specific questions of the vendors on the list, but it helps narrow their search! This list has been happening for about 5 years. We also have an educational booth in the HealthFair11 building!

  11. As these other readers suggest, you really have to be careful and very picky. It pays to eat a protein-rich filling meal at home first. Then walk around and check out the food choices: salads are usually ok, as is corn on the cob, and those vendors that do just the french fries, a plain hamburger on a plate if you can watch them make it, plain hot dogs are iffy– not all brands are gf and many at fairs tend to be the cheaper ones with fillers. Pop corn, popsicles, frozen yogurt in a cup (go for the plain stuff). Drink lots of water, ask the right questions and have fun! (those turkey drumsticks?- beware the barbeque sauce!)

  12. I have numerous food allergies…the only one of the top 8 I know I can have safely is soy. I don’t even try to eat at events like this.

  13. The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim, PA that runs weekends from the beginning of August through the end of October has a list on their website of what food booths and food items are gluten free, although they can guarantee there is no cross-contamination.

  14. Turkey legs and Hebrew National hot dogs with out the buns. Make sure that you tell them to cook fresh and not just pull them out of a bun.

    Also, most ice cream in a cup, not cone.

  15. I have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was participating in an Art fair in Gainsville, FL There was a new vendor selling arepas (corn cakes) with a cheese filling. He sold nothing else so there was no chance of cross contamination. After a conversation regarding ingredients, preparation, utensils and grill history, I was convinced his product was safe. I was thrilled to get something hot at a fair (I always bring a cooler with my safe foods) and not get ill.

  16. I would say Cotton Candy is pretty safe – there are only four ingredients sugar, food coloring, flavoring and air. Unless you afraid there is gluten in the air.

  17. I’ve had turkey legs at the Nebraska state fair. I verified they did not inject with spices. So filling, can never finish one.

  18. Even with kettle corn you have to be careful. A local festival had a kettle corn station set up, and I couldn’t wait to buy some. It smelled SO good. . . . Until I watched the people making it eating bread around the pot. Windy day. Guess where the crumbs went?

  19. We attend the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, Ca and I was able to enjoy corn on the cob and a baked potato with some toppings. Simple, but it’s something to enjoy while at the fair.
    Happy fairing!!

  20. At the Erie County Fair in Hamburg NY, there is no shortage of good food that is normally GF. There are many vendors dedicated to potatoes (deep fried fries, ribbons, sweet potatoes, etc) that cook nothing else. My favorite fair treats are chocolate dipped, frozen bananas, great on a hot day. There is also a Cajun food vendor (rice and seafood based) that has many GF items and they are happy to clarify ingredients when asked. If you want healthy, there are fresh salads and fruit vendors too.

  21. At the NY State Fair, they have a potato booth that only sells potatoes for $1 each plus toppings that are separate (cheese, butter in package, sour cream in package). That’s the only thing I’ve seen as naturally gluten free although not listed as that. And the line is always insanely long.
    It is a huge fair so I’m surprised someone doesn’t have a gluten free booth!

  22. At the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, WA, I’ve had corn on the cob, turkey legs, and curly fries (I found a dedicated stand that only did potatoes, no other fried goods, so no cross contamination). A friend told me that there was at least 1 stand in the rides area that offered GF corn dogs, deep fried in a separate fryer. I will be looking for that this year, but didn’t see it myself last year. If you bring your own bun or bread, you could ask them to make you a burger w/o bun as well, but watch closely for cross-contamination (buns on the grill, etc.). I always thought it would be wonderful to open a GF food stand at the fair. The need for this is becoming much greater. The fair just isn’t as much fun without being able to enjoy your favorite fair foods too.

  23. The Indianapolis State Fair claimed the Dairy Barn had non gluten shakes and cheese. The Pork Tent said they do not add any seasoning to their grilled pork. The Ribeye Steak Tent made the same claim; no seasoning, just good, grilled, beef! The corn was dunked in a butter oil, (No ingredient list) so I chose no butter.
    The curled, cut potato was gluten free. Must read seasonings ingredients close.

  24. I usually will have the shush kabob or grilled chicken. I will check with the vendors when they are too busy to make sure they don’t baste them with any hing I can’t have. I have also had baked potatoes, nachos with cheese sauce, and the soft serve ice cream in a bowl of course, but I asked to read the ingredients on their ingredients boxes first.

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