Sunday, October 24, 2010

#39 Goose Festival - Sumner, MO - October 23, 2010

#39 Goose Festival - Sumner, MO - October 23, 2010


Welcome to Sumner, MO the Wild Goose Capital of the world. Don't believe me? It's written right on their local saloon. I'm not sure what the process is to be dubbed the Goose Capital, but I'm sure Sumner has all of their paperwork in order. Just seems messier than cleaning up after a parade of Clydesdales to me.















It had been a while since I have been to a festival, and my heart may have been getting over-confident of late. Alas, it was short lived as I ate this oily mess of fried pickles. Normally, fried pickles are served in chip form which balances the tart pickle with enough batter. Yet these little diddies were spears, and these spears were ready to fully unleash their sour powers. It basically tasted like a warm pickle and the mug o' ranch did nothing beneficial. I can't stand ranch dressing.










These were sold as, "Poor Man's Mushrooms". I wasn't aware that mushrooms were very expensive, in fact I'm pretty sure they grow in the wild. (At least he button variety you would fry). Yet this vendor decided to make the process more difficult. These beauties consisted of Cream of Mushroom Soup balls with cornmeal, and then breaded and fried. Interesting concept, but breaded mushrooms are better. Maybe some goose would have been a nice addition to the batter.











The pioneer kitchen was open, and I was excited. I was salivating thinking about blue plate specials, goose concoctions or meat and bread sandwiches. Alas, they were out of everything except soup and pie. I settled for the pie. A nice piece of homemade pumpkin pie with Cool-Whip topping. You just can't go wrong with a slice of pie. My disappointment with the lack of pioneer food at the pioneer kitchen faded with every bite. (Side note: This is a good example as to why you should cover the exposed crust with a ring of aluminum foil when baking the pie).









I noticed there was something missing in my afternoon at the Goose Festival...a flippin' goose. There weren't any flying around, attacking little children or crapping all over the sidewalks. I think the reason was this 3-story goose was scaring them all away. A local cowboy informed me of this strange commemoration and I had to go see it for myself. I'm not sure I have to say much more about "Maxie" the World's Largest Goose. This guy has more info on Maxie, and points out that I somehow missed the world's largest pecan around here.











Not much is known about this mysterious object that fell from the sky some 200 years ago. I say "some", because the time frame offered spans 100 years. I'm not sure how rare meteorites are, but I had never seen a meteoric monument before. Two monuments in a town of 150 is not a bad ratio.














Trinket of the Week: A Duck Commander brand duck call. I'll be honest with you, a real duck call will put you back anywhere from $50 on up. You can probably get a good one for about $150. Now I have no idea what makes one duck caller better than another, but I now know that for $5 all get is made a sucker. This thing is a kid's whistle in a duck calling package. Maybe I'm not doing it right, but I'm pretty sure the vendor didn't laugh at me just because I didn't look like a hunter.










Videos of the Week: Now this is what a duck call is supposed to sound like. Notice the passion and heart that a true caller needs, regardless of their age. Note the youthful exuberance in contrast to the mature calm exuded by an old pro. This my friends is true callin'. I had no idea what I was looking at, and had to ramble on over to a cowboy in a yellow Wrangler shirt in order to find out. It's actually a lot like a harmonica where breath control is vital and each call is tailored for a specific behavior (ie. warning, mating, feeding, etc.).


It's been a while since my last update, and to my loyal reader, I apologize. I needed to take a self-imposed hiatus to take care of some things. This goose festival was a great welcome back. Although I didn't see a single live goose or eat any goose related goodies, it was still a pretty silly event. There are always smiling people just waiting to share their pride in their hometown with you at every festival in America. This time I met a beady-eyed cowboy wearing a canary yellow shirt and a cowboy hat who was quite open to discussing the festival. Apparently some years ago Sumner, MO was in the middle of the central migratory pattern of the Canadian Goose. Geese were so rampant that the yearly kill limit was 250,000 for hunters. But, as time, development, regulations and waterways changed, the kill limits dwindled to 100,000 and down to the tens of thousands today. Hunters are still at the ready here, but these days each person is limited to one bird per day. Hardly makes the effort worthwhile. Goose isn't that good.

Back to the lecture at hand, as always here is much more information about Canadian Geese than you probably had even been curious about. Heck they even have sound effects if you need the siren song of the Canadian Goose. Or if you are a little ADD prone, here are some quick hits of Canadian Goose facts. Here is some interesting information on their migration patterns and behaviors. Now, after getting to know the goose and hearing the term "kill limit" earlier, maybe you would like to stand up in defense of the goose. Then here is all the info you need. Or, maybe like me, you have been attacked by a wild-eyed goose and would prefer to prepare one in a delicious way.

As I mentioned, there was no goose to be found at the festival. Although my appetite was not satiated by the fowl, my mind kept asking questions about our lexicon concerning the goose. There are a lot of goose related terms out there, so I figured I'd explore a few. The term "goosebumps" has a surprisingly simple origin answer. It gets much more complicated when you bring up geese, gaggle and gander. Apparently a group of geese (in the air) is a gaggle, a male goose is a gander, a baby goose is a gosling and a female goose is a...well a goose. This is all explained well here along with the term, "Take a gander at...". It also explains the term, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" (which I mistakenly thought was about what's good for an individual is good for a group).

Ok enough learning, because I know you came here to find a hand blown funny goose from Russia. Or maybe your warped mind has wondered if a duck and a goose are able to mate. The answer, well here is an entry named, "What the Guck". Well now you're ready to handle a gaggle of geese yourself. Maybe you'll find yourself in Sumner and not actually see any geese, well then here is an instructional video on how to call geese to you. Or, here is a funny documentary of the dangers of the goose. Thanks for taking a gander.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

You might be wondering if that is shrimp on a perfectly good nacho, and the answer would be yes. I'm not sure who or why someone thought this was a good idea, but there is a reason this is the first time I've seen this combination. It's not that it was bad, but it just didn't make any sense either. I ended up eating the nachos first and then eating the then cheesy shrimp. The creativity though was duly noted.












The classic fried shrimp. There really isn't a way to mess up this dish, and I was certainly happy with this. Along with the perfectly GBD shrimp was something called a sweet tomato. It was crinkle cut and looked like s half tomato half pickle frankenfruit. It tasted like a very mild pickle with a crisp texture which ended up being a good contrast to the sweet thimble o' cocktail sauce.










There wasn't really any other strange concoctions, so I went ahead and got the shrimp on a stick. I have previously bemoaned terribly cooked and handled seafood in the past, but this was excellent. They understood that people are willing to wait the 2 minutes to cook shrimp, and perfectly grilled this skewer. I will happily attest that these shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the scampi style was pretty decent too.










Now when I first came to this festival, I was greeted by a line of motorcycles. My mind immediately raced back to my previous misadventures with motorcycle rallies. Don't get me wrong, bikers are by and far great people, but it's kinda like looking into a cow's eye. They look nice and calm, but you can tell their animal instinct could kick in at anytime.












Golconda, Illinois is set atop the Ohio River along the Kentucky border. This festival was fairly tame when it came to the strange, but it did offer helicopter rides. Now I have done a tethered hot air balloon ride, but I just couldn't trust a helicopter pilot that needed the money from a Shrimp festival to fly me around.










Festive Trinket of the Week: Maybe not one of my strangest buys, but I've always enjoyed mancala and don't have a set. That, and the price was right at $2. Heck, you don't even need the board to play; in ancient times people simply dug the holes into the ground and played with stones.



Video of the Week: The video I had didn't reflect the humor I had intended. Thus, here is a shrimp on a treadmill set to the music of the Benny Hill Show. Solid. If you watch the whole thing I might be worried about you.

Now you may be wondering why the heck is there a shrimp festival in the middle of the country? Well, turns out that Golconda is a burgeoning freshwater shrimp farming hub. Apparently the shrimp at this festival was raised right here in Golconda, which made me feel better about eating shrimp in Southern Illinois (Kind of). Golconda was a nice host, but my favorite Golconda fun fact may be that it has no signal lights and only one four-way stop (almost impossibly true).

Now loyal readers know this is an educational blog at its roots, so here is all the information you may ever want to know about shrimp (even told through the oral tradition). Or maybe you would like to go shrimping on your own and catch a fresh batch, well Jethro is way ahead of you. Now I know that some people may no longer be able to say the word "shrimp" without thinking of Bubba Gump. Can you name all the ways Bubba can cook shrimp? The first thing that actually came to my mind was actually a prawn. Here is my boy, Pepe the Prawn, telling a fairly solid joke with an elephant buddy. As we have seen shrimp can be funny, but did you know they can also be deadly? This pistol shrimp kind of creeps me out. Make sure you watch the first video as well, I'm not sure how much sound is added and how much is real. Heck, you don't even have to be around the water to be in shrimp danger, just ask this lady what flying shrimp at the local Benihana can do.

Shrimp are an extremely versatile food, and one that almost everyone enjoys (except for those that are shellfish intolerant). If you ever find yourself with a bunch of shrimp and no ideas, make sure you try the horseradish shrimp recipe on the left side of the page (my first award winner). The Golconda Shrimp festival is pretty fun, if a little on the normal side (if that's a bad thing). Maybe it needed a mascot or a someone in a silly shrimp costume. Either way the food was good, the sky was blue and the travel smooth. Another success on the festival circuit.

EDIT: Festive Friend Imron added some great information regarding Golconda in the comment section that I felt should be included in the post:
"Also, did you investigate the claim that the name Golconda (which is pretty unique) actually comes from India? Golconda, India (right by Hyderabad and the Fort is still there), was apparently one of the regional capitals from 1512 to 1687. It is likely the Illinois town was a throwback to the earlier Indian era, since it was named as a regional capital within Illinois in 1817, at a time when interest in India was the vogue because of expanding English rule there."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#37 Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010

Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010



Welcome to the Popcorn Festival in Casey, and yes, the first thing you get is a free bag of popcorn. Getting the theme ingredient for free at a festival is always a great beginning. I think popcorn is one of those foods I could keep eating until either there was no more left or my stomach hurt. (Also included in that category: Chicken Wings, Candy Corn, Milk Chocolate, Peanut M&M's, most edible items, etc.)













Meet the fried pretzel. Deep fried foods are a staple at these festivals, and I can't believe it took me this long to find a fried pretzel. The concept is so simple and obvious it almost puts the pet rock to shame. Don't let the strange color and scary bubbles scar you, this pretzel was crispy and soft on the inside. A great compliment to the cheese. I'll just have to say that it tasted better than it photographed.







Next up was this belly bomber known as either a Frito-Pie or a Taco-in-a-Bag. Either way it is pretty tasty. These are prevalent at festivals, but I hadn't gotten one before. It is a regular bag of fritos (Slightly crushed) topped with chili, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. Another looks like crap but tastes great option.







After these goodies, it was time for dessert. This is a deep fried snickers bar. This is definitely not my first rodeo when it comes to deep fried desserts, but the snickers had eluded me until now. Maybe I was expecting more, but this was kind of a disappointment. The crust did nothing for the bar, and to make a snickers even more gooey seems counter productive. Don't get me wrong, you can't go wrong with battering and frying a candy bar. But, I would prefer a frozen snickers to a deep fried one.





Strangely, there were three wood carvers putting on demonstrations throughout the day as well. These guys were fairly impressive as their pieces show. I like artwork of animals doing people activities, so the fishing bear definitely caught my eye.










Festive Trinket of the Week: I think this sign speaks for itself. It will make an excellent addition to my home, and I was even able to talk down the price enough to not even have buyers remorse (quite the feat when it comes to these silly trinkets).






Videos of the Week Twofer: I finally found my camera and videos are again plentiful. Of course you didn't expect quality images of quality entertainment did you? On the left is Paul Lee the Magician. He runs through a few staple tricks such as producing a dove and turning it into a rabbit. The man just needs an assistant, and he would be great. He even claims to have appeared on the Bozo the Clown Show (creepy, but reminded me of this Seinfeld skit). On the right is the "Whip Guy" who was actually fairly entertaining. Here he is doing his best Indiana Jones impersonation by whipping the whip around a woman.


This festival was actually larger than I had expected, but oddly enough did not feature much popcorn. Sadly, it had the free popcorn stand and two other kettle corn booths for purchase. I'm not much of a kettle corn guy, there's something plain wrong about sweet popcorn. So why popcorn in Casey, IL? I asked the local information booth, and was told that Casey used to be home to many popcorn factories, was grown in town, and donated to the festival. For some reason the factories closed up years ago and the town continued using a popcorn theme (even though its popcorn is now bought and shipped in).

I know my loyal reader is here to become the next leader in popcorn history so here you go. If that wasn't enough to satiate you, then this site dedicated to popcorn is bursting with info. Some of you may not be into all that learning stuff, so here is a direct link to a corn and kernel popcorn pong game against Poppy and a slow motion video of popcorn kernels popping set to strange music. Maybe that's not silly enough for you. Well then, how about the world's largest popcorn ball and the process to make it? If that still isn't doing it for you, then nothing is sillier than the mark up on movie theater popcorn. After all of that, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about writing this post was James Brown performing "Mother Popcorn". If you would like to learn how to dance like James Brown learn from the Godfather of Soul himself here (2 Words: Funky Chicken). Or if you ever wondered why he is referred to as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, then here is a good run down. (Set to a great song).

These days microwaved popcorn has made life pretty easy for most popcorn enthusiasts. Yet modern science always wants to tell us that everything is bad for you. Heck, even if you do make it, many people tend to get distracted and forget it in the microwave too long. A lesson my old friend the Swedish Chef makes here to a very catchy song. If you want to make your own microwave popcorn yourself without the extra fillers and additives, then Alton Brown is here to help with a brown paper bag. Maybe you can even sneak some into your next movie and keep some kernels in your cob.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

#36 Festival of Nations - St. Louis, MO - August 28. 2010

Festival of Nations - St. Louis, MO - August 28, 2010

As you can see, this is a pretty well attended festival set in the sprawling Tower Grove Park. Although the pathways in front of the vendors was pretty treacherous, there was ample tree shaded space available to enjoy it. There were three different pathways just like this one at the festival, with each vendor tent offering food from across the globe. There was food from Ghana to Argentina to Russia and back to Eritrea (which borders one of my favorite country names: Djibouti). Sadly there was an American tent which featured hot dogs, but strangely no hamburgers.









Of course my first stop was to an Indian vendor, which supplied this samosa. The samosa is the quintessential Indian appetizer, and this sample of spicy potato and peas encased in a GBD pastry did not disappoint. The only problem was the tamarind sauce that was ladled into the same tray made the crust a little soggy. Normally the sweetness of the sauce and the spiciness of the samosa play well. For a festival food though, I was pleasantly surprised. A filled pastry is a standard in every country from dumplings to pierogis to empanadas. Check out the
Samosa Connection for even more examples (It even includes the runza of Nebraska for US)








My next stop was an Ethiopian vendor for this Doro Wot. You are looking at a chicken leg floating within a rich tomato based slightly spicy sauce. On the side was a very thin crepe like bread. This was much like an Indian dosa. It smelled amazing, and my taster ate every piece of it. This sure beats the normal festival fare so far.














Next on the tour was this Cevapi from Bosnia. It was advertised as a handmade beef sausage in a fresh baked bread. The bread was excellent. The sausages were a little rubbery, and looked suspiciously like the frozen links you can buy at the market for a dollar. They did have a mellow kabob taste that was actually pleasant with the excellent bread. Normally a sausage would be assorted meat, ground, and encased in its own intestine. This was not that. Instead it was more of a kabob taste. Normally a kabob is either chunks of meat or ground meat formed onto a skewer and grilled. Again this was neither. I'm not sure what to make of it in the end, but I liked it anyway.










Many of the vendors at the festival were from local restaurants. Yet, there were some booths like this one, where it seemed like local families got together for a picnic in the park and decided to share their food with strangers. These ladies were like an assembly line of egg roll making.













The best part of the festival is that while you are eating all the great food, there are 4 stages of music and demonstrations of cultures from around the world. Pictured here is a dancer from a West African drum and dance demonstration. It was entrancing, and I couldn't take my eye off that orange faced man.












Festive Trinket of the Week: A hand knitted Alpaca from Bolivia. The vendor told me that some ladies in Bolivia knit these animals, and a portion of the proceeds would return to them. I'm not sure I believed her, but it made my purchase a little easier to enjoy. What's the difference between a llama and an alpaca you ask? Well, one has banana shaped ears. Simply put, llamas are work animals that transport goods like mules, and alpacas are primarily used for their fur. I would prefer to be the alpaca.








Video of the Week: I had some technical difficulties this week. I had video of DJ Ranx and Dubtronix playing one of my all time favorite songs in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" by Michael Rose and Black Uhuru, but it didn't come out. I also had video of the dance routine pictured above, but again the same result. Sadly, I checked down like an NFL quarterback to this strange karate routine. It doesn't really go anywhere and for three people doing slow tai chi or karate they should have been more coordinated. I also would have preferred Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting" for the music.

This festival is quickly moving up in my favorite festivals to attend each year. I have been going to the
Festival of Nations for years, and remember when there was just one stage and only a handful of vendor tents. I would estimate there were about 100 vendor tents and there is always something going on. You can just aimlessly walk around the park and come across something you have never seen before, something I truly enjoyed here.

I'll be honest. I didn't actually eat any of these items at the time of purchase. Instead, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Festive Friend Kim who courageously came along to be the official taster. I was able to stow away some items into her purse in order to try later. I am currently fasting for Ramadan, and can not eat or drink anything between sunrise to sunset (A fact that is very troublesome for a food blogger). If you want more information on Ramadan click here.

This festival reminded me of one of my favorite trips I ever took with my family to Dubai. Every year there is an International Shopping Festival in Dubai that features exhibits and even grandiose Country themed sections of buildings. Think of an authentic Epcot Center. Although on a much smaller scale, this festival made me think of it. (Pictured is the India section from the festival in Dubai to show the scale. Thanks to Bala of Flickr)

Here are some links if you would like to learn more about the aforementioned
Eritrea or Djibouti. Did you know Akon was born in St. Louis then moved to Senegal? How about trying a very simple game to help Maggie get around the world using the power of math? So you always wanted to learn how to say hello in different languages but never could find a suitable method to learn them. Well my Friend, here are some creepy muppets (and even creepier guy) singing a "hello" song from around the world. Or if you want to hear Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn try to pass off G'Day Mate as a different language click here. There are also a lot of weird paranormal alleged activities around the world. Finally, one of my favorite music videos of all time, "Around the World". (The song is mildly annoying but I can't stop watching it). It has always been amazing to me how much silliness is available in just a short radius from the middle of the country in St. Louis. Sometimes you don't have to go too far to get away. movie "The Namesake" (one of my favorite movies), "they say that's what books are for...to travel without moving an inch".

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

#35 Inland Seafood Festival - Cincinnati, OH - August 14, 2010

#35 Inland Seafood Festival - Cincinnati, OH - August 14, 2010

The $10.95 whole Maine lobster. This was the big draw at this festival, and I'll admit I was excited about a whole lobster for under 11 bucks. I should have expected that it would taste like a $10.95 lobster. The tail meat was mushy and had no discernible taste. The claw meat tasted a bit better, but it saddened me to think this critter gave its life to end up like this. The festival began on Thursday and I attended the festival on Saturday. This lobster tasted like it had been boiled to death on Thursday and held until I arrived. A theme I suspect was true for other items as well.







Meet the seafood coney. I was expecting some type of seafood patty or formed meat topped with some type of sauce. instead I was handed this pile of hot mess. It consisted of assorted seafood bits that was served out of an aluminum pan from a vendor who's sign simply read, "Seafood". All the warning signs were there, but I ignored them in an attempt to try something new. This bit of over confidence hurt me for the next 24 hours. I pride myself for having an iron stomach, and this little beauty had my stomach making sounds like a bear in a cave.






I was disappointed thus far to say the least, until I saw this shrimp cocktail. Despite the saddest plating of a shrimp cocktail I have ever come across, this was actually very good. I guess you really can't screw up shrimp cocktail, but nothing would have surprised me here.














For the second week in a row, I tried some alligator on a stick. This week's sample came battered instead of the breaded variety I had last week. I will have to admit that this alligator tasted better, and was actually a very good dish. If you haven't tried alligator, you should. It may be the most accessible and tame exotic meat out there.












I didn't actually taste this behemoth of a pita, but loyal reader Bucky assured me it was quite tasty. It was basically a seafood gyro, and definitely seemed more fresh than the other items I had sampled.













This was supposedly a lobster ravioli. Maybe I have a different definition of lobster ravioli, but I would assume it would require lobster. A fact that was overlooked in this dish. It tasted like ricotta cheese inside a dough ball. Disappointing, but I was more than happy to share my lobster tail meat to supplement this dish for other diners.












One of my favorite classics, fish and chips. It is really hard to screw up this classic as well, and I am happy to report that loyal reader Aaron described this dish as pretty good.














This festival took place on the other side of the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio. This picture contains the downtown Cincinnati Skyline including the Great American Ballpark of the Reds. I always want to use Mickey Mouse's voice when I say the Great American Ballpark. The St. Louis Cardinals will always be my baseball team, and after the recent unpleasantness between these two teams, the Reds are a bunch of Cuetos. I kid, kind of. I don't know who this guy is, but I like his analysis.







Festive Trinket of the Week: A warbling bird whistle. You can fill the top of the bird with water, and it makes a warbling sound when you blow through it. The vendor put on quite the display with this simple concept, and I half expected birds to be miraculously drawn to him. They weren't and I can't get the whistle to sound like his. At least, I talked him down enough in price that it is now only slightly over-priced.









Video of the Week: This is the Darkstar Band performing the classic "Johnny B. Goode" by St. Louis native Chuck Berry. You can see that this show was in high demand and seating was at a premium. I'm still having video issues, but I couldn't rob my loyal reader of seeing the actual conditions at this festival.

I actually incorporated this festival into a trip to visit some old friends. Three of my friends were able to accompany me to this festival, which really increased the amount of food I was able to taste. I would never have been able to taste this much food by myself (Or at least I wouldn't have). Many thanks to my friends Aaron, Bucky and Tim for their company and willingness to explore.

Now the concept of an INLAND Seafood Festival had been troubling me way before I bit into that seafood coney. How does it even make sense? A seafood festival in Kentucky. It was a concept almost too weird to pass up. Yet, the inherent problem of an inland seafood is that all of the food must be transported in and I'm not sure how much attention was paid to safe food handling. Add to this calamity that the temperature was hovering around the 100 degree mark, and you have a recipe for disaster. Seafood coney I'm looking in your direction.

I was still disappointed, and surprisingly shocked, about the lobster. I wished it could have had a fate similar to Pinchy from the Simpsons. If you would like to know more than anyone should know about lobster then this page has a lot of good info and links to satisfy every question. I originally theorized that maybe the Gulf oil spill may have affected this festival. Apparently I was just making excuses for shoddy food. If you don't like seafood, or are now scared to eat it, then this may be a good compromise. Brilliant. It definitely could have been worse, I mean click here and look up sild from Iceland.

Bad seafood on a hot day may not sound like a good time to you, but I ended up having a blast with my buddies. It's always more fun to attend festivals with a group of other hungry people. It's kind of funny that my plans to visit friends in other cities are now reliant on whether there is a suitable festival during their availability. The seafood may have won this battle, but like the Reds, we'll see who wins the war. The next seafood festival I go to may actually need to be near...I don't know...a sea!

Monday, August 9, 2010

#34 Decatur Celebration - Decatur, IL - August 8, 2010

#34 Decatur Celebration - Decatur, IL - August 8, 2010


Meat on a stick is always good, but hard to determine exactly what it is. You are actually looking at alligator on a stick. And yes, it tasted like....well, alligator. It had a chickeny taste, but had a sweet fresh water aftertaste. It was actually pretty good, and to be honest, anything with a deep fired batter is better.













The next stop was this tasty treat. Deep Fried Brownies. I'm not sure what the actual batter consisted of, but it was a type of chocolate batter. The concept was ingenious but was not very impressive at first. The crispy exteriors of the batter made an excellent contrast in texture, and really grew on me. After eating half of the brownie, I was in desperate search of a tall glass of ice cold milk. It was actually very good.












Yet, my sweet tooth was not fully indulged. I came across this strawberry crepe, which looked too good to pass up. The looks did not deceive. There was a light crepe wrapped around a vanilla custard all topped with whipped cream and super sweet strawberries. There really isn't a way to make that taste bad. Pure simple genius, and proof that classics are classics for a reason.













I was aimlessly wandering the festival when I came across this oddity. Meet Scott Wade and his
dirty car art. It was actually very impressive. This is a car that is coated with dirt, and the artist removes strips of dirt by brush to create these beautiful images. Not the best long-term artwork, but something that is easy to appreciate.














Festive Trinket of the Week: I have already installed this trinket into its permanent place. Obviously this is a Pee-Wee Herman light switch cover that really scares me to turn that switch off for some reason. Luckily, that switch controls most of my electrical items, and should never be turned off. Regardless, it makes me laugh every single time I have looked at it. Solid Gold. Ok if you insist, here is some
classic Tequila Pee Wee, or his show's theme song, or even one of the most memorable magic words you ever did here. Side note, did you know Cowboy Curtis from the show was played by Laurence Fushburne? Everyone has to start somewhere.












Video of the Week: This was truly the highlight of this festival. Although the festival brought in many local and national acts, two artists caught my eye enough to change schedule and attend this past Sunday. Ton Loc and Young MC graced the stage this fateful day. You may know Tone Loc for his hits such as Wild Thing or Funky Cold Medina, but Young MC really entertained me with this classic song, "Bust a Move". Sorry for the poor audio quality as my phone is apparently not the solution to a lost camera.






Decatur, Illinois was an interesting city but not nearly as interesting as its
namesake. Take a moment to read the inscription on this tomb, and it seems as though it was written yesterday. Stephen Decatur was a hero in the War of 1812 and the Barbary Wars. He fought valiantly, and was the youngest officer to achieve the rank of Captain. His story comes to an end over and old school duel (At 8 paces though due to his opponent's poor vision). Although Decatur was an expert marksman, he did not attempt a kill shot (aiming instead to incapacitate his foe, one James Barron). Ultimately, Mr. Barron took the shot in the hip but was able to fire off a critical shot to Decatur's abdomen. Stephen Decatur died that day, but his legacy lives on.To learn more about Mr. Decatur than any non-history buff should know just click here.









Thank you to the two ladies I met at the Walleye Festival who originally advised me to go this festival. It didn't have a food theme, but boasted 62 different food vendors of varying interest. Thank you also to Kim who accompanied me to this festival, and made it that much more fun.

Although the food vendors provided a plethora of options, Tone Loc and Young MC were definitely the highlights. If you are not able to recite every word of "Bust A Move" you either didn't grow up in my generation, or were just not very cool at the time. I know my video audio quality is terrible, so I'll include Young MC's hits here as well. Hits such as, "Bust A Move", "Principal's Office", or "Fastest Rhyme". (If you want another retrospective on the 80's here he is on the Arsenio Hall show).The man has still got it, as he even performed the latter for his encore (yes an encore at the Decatur Celebration). The man has still got it, and may have been even better than I remember. Tone Loc was the actual headliner (at 5 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon at the Decatur Celebration) but was a little disappointing. He came off pretty self-important and brought along some fake reggae hype man named Poopadon (best I could make out). He did play his hits, but it wasn't as fun as Young. Here is Tone's hit, "Wild Thing".

Without fear for my waistline nor artery health, I have officially been on a deep fried food item kick. Yet, sadly I have only scratched the surface. Here are 25 great ideas to try at home, of which I have only tried 7. I need to stop slacking. If that didn't satisfy your inner-glutton, then visit the Chip Shop on your next visit to NYC and bring in whatever you want them to fry or submit an idea online.

This festival is a great example of one man's idea gone wild. Originally one man's vision to promote the city and boost morale, has spawned a festival covering 20 city blocks with 11 entertainment stages 25 years later. This festival was a last minute addition at the expense of Odessa, MO's Puddle Jumper Days. I took a risk on a larger festival based on a recommendation of a person I met over a fish sandwich,and it really paid off. We should all take a lesson from Stephen Decatur's life and death. Always go for all the money, and never take anything for granted.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#33 Walleye Festival, Findlay, IL, July 31, 2010

#33 Walleye Festival, Findlay, IL, July 31, 2010

A fresh made-to-order Walleye Sandwich. After a recent string of disappointments, I finally found a festival featuring its theme ingredient. The walleye was perfectly cooked to a perfect golden brown, while the fish was moist and flavorful. The simplicity is genius and I enjoyed every bite.













The fish were flying this fateful day. These fryers were packed to the gills (sorry) with fish the entire afternoon. Normally, the walleye are caught in nearby Lake Shelbyville. Unfortunately there was not a fisherman living at the lake pulling in walleye 24/7 to provide the hundreds of pounds of fish to feed the masses. Instead the fish was brought in, but it put a filet-o-fish to shame.









I ventured away from the fish tent, and found some vendors to my liking. Nothing typifies festival food better than taking a perfectly good food, and then battering and deep frying it. Meet the deep fried peanut butter jelly sandwich. I may need to start a new food group for this one. What's not to like about a crispy crust with sweet jelly and creamy peanut butter oozing out? I like a toasted peanut butter sandwich now and then, but I may never have a pbj without deep frying it ever again.









The deep fried trend continued. This is a deep fried cheeseburger. They actually cook it with all of the toppings already inside. It was good, but couldn't compare with the pbj. It essentially tasted like a White Castle slider if you reheated and ate it the next day (Am I the only one who has done that?). The vendor was so impressed with my appetite that he threw in the fried oreos for free. Fried oreos are very sweet and delicious, but the frying process makes for soggy cookie crusts. You know it's good when they serve the food atop a napkin.








Go to a festival anywhere in the Mid-West, and someone somewhere will be dragging a man in a weighted sled by tractor for recreation. Walleye Festival featured a tractor pull, but bucking tradition, used garden tractors instead of the usual farm type. I'll never truly understand it, but I did enjoy the fact these garden tractors were named (Especially the Hillbilly Deluxe). Sweet rides.











Festive Trinket of the Week: This picture may confuse the scale, but this little fishing stool is very small. Notice the pack of baseball cards (featuring the polarizing Tony LaRussa) is almost the width of the seat. I did insist that the slightly more robust vendor sit on the stool as a testimonial before my purchase. The stool legs bowed, and I think I heard it cry, but it prevailed in the end. Maybe not the silliest item of the year, but one I will actually use at some point hopefully.








Video of the Week: Apparently I have lost my camera, and the phone I used for pictures didn't record the video sound very well. This was supposed to be the Misdemeanor Band playing "Boot Scootin' Boogie", and it was glorious. This will be fixed. Until then, enjoy the world's largest walleye (Walleye Willie) with poignant commentary. This actually is the country's largest walleye according to this site, although there is debate as to which city is the real Walleye Capital of the Country.

Did you know that walleye are actually carnivorous and eat other fish? Serves them right to be battered and fried to golden brown and delicious. As always, here is a link for all the walleye information anyone in their land loving mind may want to know. Once you have learned more about your potential catch, then why not watch an instructional video on how best to catch them? Well now that you know how to catch them, might as well learn how to properly clean them. I will have to warn you that this video is not for the faint of heart, as it depicts how to filet the fish with all sound effects included. If you still watched that video, then maybe now is a good time to remind you of my love for mascots. If you are ever in Toledo, Ohio you can have this slightly creepy little bugger at your next birthday party. I know what you want, and what you want is a hand painted wooden hillbilly walleye welcome sign but want to spend under $400. So, here you go! Did you know that there is a club dedicated to all things walleye in a town near you? Finally, this picture made me laugh for some reason, and yes "Walleye Central" has a Facebook page.

The Walleye Festival may have been the best festival I have attended since the Turkey Festival last month. I had the pleasure of some great table mates from nearby Decatur, IL who appreciated the subtle nuances of deep fried foods. As I was eating my fish sandwich, we began discussing my somewhat unrealistic goals for this site and other ventures when she mentioned the term BHAG. Having been to many leadership conferences in the past, she explained the acronym stood for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Here is one of the creators providing some leadership conference drivel. Although I hate these canned conferences, I do agree with setting high goals. Today they may seem unrealistic and silly, but hopefully someday the thought changes to, "There is no reason I CAN'T achieve these goals". I have always believed that everything is possible, and your only limitation is your own imagination.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

#32 Sunflower Festival - Clarksville, MO - July 25, 2010

#32 Sunflower Festival - Clarksville, MO - July 25, 2010

You really have to hate life in order to dislike sunflowers. How could anyone not smile a little just looking at them. I got lost in their beauty, and spiraled into song...Then I realized something was missing. I quickly noticed there really wasn't a festival going on. There were no people, no tents and worse of all, no delicious food. But that was going to change, because according to the Internet a nearby restaurant was offering special sunflower creations.







You'll notice that nothing on this plate even resembles a sunflower. This unnamed restaurant advertised sunflower treats on the web, and when I arrived the hostess promised said sunflower treats. It wasn't until I was seated that I was told the sunflower treats would not be available. A single tear dripped down my face. My sunny disposition would not be shaken, and I ordered this Catfish Banh Mi. I hope loyal reader Bucky will regale us of this Vietnamese inspired sandwich. Maybe my taste buds were soiled with sunflower disappointment, but it didn't taste nearly as good as it looked.






I went by the sunflowers again to regain my festive mood and ventured into town. This is my new buddy Ralph who is the artisan at a local wooden chair shop. Ralph is an interesting guy and a delight to speak with (and makes damn fine chairs as well). Apparently he was a bad biker from LA until he decided to join the police department in LA. The way he tells it, local Clarksville police harassed him while he stopped on a ride into town and he stayed simply because they said he wasn't welcome. My kind of guy. He was injured and immobile, so for some reason he took a class in chair making taught by a master craftsmen. 10 years later, he is loving life slowly carving chairs with a view of the Mississippi from his shop. And yes, he is also the town Santa in the Winter.






Clarksville, MO is a town of artisans, most of whom are happy to share their craft. It is hard to see, but this artist rolled, blew and spun glass into this celebration shot glass in about 10 minutes right in front of us. Apparently a celebration shot glass' opening is on the bottom, and thus can only be used when in someones hand. Hence, a celebration shot glass. This shot glass is of their "dude" theme, which has a man with his hands in the air on top of the glass. See below for a video.







The funny thing was that there really wasn't a huge sunflower display. In fact, the flowers I have pictured above were growing in a large garden by someones house. Everyone in town was even telling me that the best ones in town were in front of the post office. The flowers pictured to the left here are actually growing directly in front of my residence. Maybe I didn't have to drive all the way to Clarksville.























But I would have missed out on the journey. The sign on the left says you can touch the Mississippi, and I did. Loyal readers will know that I love the Mississippi River. It embodies Americana and always reminds me of one of my
favorite soulful optimism songs of all-time. Ralph tells me that in the Wintertime it is common to see 40-50 Bald Eagles patrolling these very banks.





Video of the Week: I've seen glass blowing demonstrations before, but I was really impressed with this guy at the Glass Works in Clarksville. The shop had 8 theater seats poised in front of this window for an excellent viewing point. It was hot outside, but I would think it was actually much hotter inside somewhere where glass was melting. The video also includes the owner explaining the process.

I have had some bad luck with festivals as of late, and Clarksville, MO is a great example. I actually arrived at this festival last week, only to be told the festival was this week. I arrived expecting sunflower inspirations spilling over the banks of the Mississippi. Instead of a food festival, this is more about showcasing the local artisans. Each shop has certain hours for demonstration, and you can walk to each. Yet there is no posted schedule, and nothing is set in stone. (I did a lot of research and couldn't even find out what date it was on). Although it wasn't what I was expecting, it was still fun and meeting people who are proud to show off their craft is always refreshing.

I know what your first thought must have been when you read that I went to Clarksville (at least if you are old enough to remember the Monkees). Here you go. I used to love their silly antics on their show. Now that I got that out of my system, I didn't actually learn a lot about sunflowers here. That doesn't stop FFF from learning though.

This site has more than anyone should know about sunflowers. Did you know that sunflowers may pre-date corn as a cultivated crop, and the plant's journey goes from North America to Europe and back while being manipulated by man at every step (of course). Maybe you are a visual learner. Then you can join Sunny Sunseed in an educational coloring book. Or maybe you just want to grow your own sunflowers. I know what you're thinking, but Riz how do I achieve World Peace in a hippyish way using sunflowers? Well here you go too. If you would like nature to actually fight back then here you go, sadly it made me laugh but may not be to a small child.

The journey was definitely better than the destination on this trip. Talking with the local artisans, along with the scenic drive, was actually a lot of fun. So I didn't get some crazy sunflower food item, what I did get was a relaxing day popping sunflower seeds along the Mighty Mississippi. Sure beats the Home Depot. I also found out that sunflowers move throughout the day, always facing the sun (I'm not sure why the name wasn't a dead give away). Something about that just sounds really optimistic, and I left this festival with a smile on my face.