Arts & Entertainment

First Annual New Jersey State Fair Food Vendor Competition a Deliciously Entertaining Success

Judges chow down on some delicious fair food. Credits: Jeff Morace
Judges applaud one of the great dishes. Credits: Jeff Morace
Emcee Karen Grant-Margil brings a personalized bib over for Sheriff Mike Strada. Credits: Jeff Morace
New Jersey State Fair President Alan Henderson thanks everyone for coming. Credits: Jeff Morace
Judges still going strong. Credits: Jeff Morace
Senator Steven Oroho and Sheriff Mike Strada await their next taste. Credits: Jeff Morace
Daniel Margil, Emcee Karen and Sheriff Mike get down on the spoons. Credits: Jeff Morace
Emcee Karen and Senator Steve rockin the spoons. Credits: Jeff Morace
Senator Steve gets Hula Hoop lesson from Karen AKA Ooo La La. Credits: Jeff Morace
Daniel is a Ringer. Credits: Jeff Morace
Ben Shatsoff shows off his plate spinning skills while hula hooping. Credits: Jeff Morace
Judges mill around before event gets underway. Credits: Jeff Morace
New Jersey State Senator Steven Oroho with his wife Rita, Lisa Parrott from The Sussex County Food Bank and her Daughter Carly. Credits: Jeff Morace
Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada with his wife Kim and children Shane, Dylan and Brianna. Credits: Jeff Morace
A judge's job is never done. Credits: Jeff Morace

AUGUSTA, NJ - The First Annual New Jersey State Fair Food Vendors Competition which was held at the Fairgrounds Performing Arts Tent, was a big hit with everyone who attended on Tuesday.

For the fair's inaugural competition, the vendors were challenged to create a "New Fair" food and enter it into the competition.

The categories for the contest were New Foods on a Stick, New Sandwich or Meal, New Healthy Option and New Dessert. The winners were chosen for best taste and creativity.

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The event was emceed by Professional Entertainer, Juggler and Juggling Instructor Karen Grant-Margil (AKA) Ooo La La, who along with her husband Bounce Margil and son Daniel Margil perform their Juggling Act and Balance Show at the Fair.

The competition was judged by a group of local dignitaries and chefs. They included Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada; New Jersey State Senator Steven Oroho; Chef, Caterer and Cerified Wine Sommelier Frances Delgado who along with her husband own Georges Wine and Gourmet Gallery in Branchville, Professional Performer and Juggler Daniel Margil; and, Ben Shatsoff, President of Relentless Against Cancer Inc., which is a growing non-profit organization that raises money for Cancer Research, as well as awareness about the disease.    

Also on hand for the event were New Jersey State Fair President Alan Henderson, and State Fair Director of Concessions Joyce Buerkle.

Emcee Karen Grant-Margil began the festivities by explaining the rules of the contest. Then, while waiting for some of the food to be dished out for the first round of tasting, Ooo La La along with the help of her son Daniel started warming up the audience with some Cajun Style Musical Spoon Playing. She also managed to get Senator Oroho, and Sheriff Strada to get in on the act. They also demonstrated to the two, along with Ben Shatsoff, how to hula hoop while plate spinning.  

Bringing on the Food

The first category to be judged was:

New Foods on a Stick:

Firefish on a Stick - Vendor (Tastefully British)

Pretzel Dog on a Stick - Vendor (Pretzel House)


New Sandwich or Meal:

Smoked Brisket on Texas Toast - Vendor (Texas Smoked BBQ)

Pulled Pork Empanadas - Vendor (Homestead Rest BBQ)

Slamburger with Swiss Cheese - Vendor (Agricultural Food Group)

St. Louis Style Spare Ribs - Vendor (Animated Concessions)

Stuffed Chili Dog with Bacon - Vendor (Knights of Columbus)

Brocolli and Spinach Stromboli - Vendor (Rudy's Pizza)

Slavic Sampler with Stuffed Cabbage, Perogies & Noodles - Vendor (Agricultural Food Group)

Cherrywood Smoked Turkey Leg - Vendor (Animated Concessions)

Sausage Peppers & Onions Sandwich - Vendor (Butcher Boy's)

Calzone - Vendor (Griff's Pizza)

Stuffed Vegetarian Mexican Pizza - Vendor (Crow's Nest Mex)


New Healthy Option:

Southwest Turkey Burger with Pepper Jack Cheese and Guacamole - Vendor (Boy Scout Troop 180)

Chicken Salad Platter - Vendor (Agricultural Food Group)

Veggie Burger Vendor (Boy Scout Troop 180)


Best New Desserts:

Apple Crisp - Vendor (Crazy Bout Crisp)

Chocolate Mountain Cake - Vendor (Simply Simple Desserts)

Belgian Waffle Sundae - Vendor (Amy's Sweet Treats)

At the onset of the tasting, Emcee Karen asked the judges how they prepered for the tasting event.

Sheriff Strada said, "I have not eaten since breakfast, but I am definately going to pace myself, although I can't wait to dig into some of this delicious looking food."

 As the food kept coming out to the judges, Senator Oroho looked over the abundance of culinary delight and asked, "Is this heaven?"

"This is what heaven must be like, and could I get a doggie bag? I'm going to need a doggie bag," he continued, before quipping, "I should have worn my stretchy pants."

Also throughout the entire competition, State Fair President Alan Henderson walked through the crowd handing out samples of the all the food for everyone to enjoy.

At the end of the judges' tasting, they were asked how they were feeling.

Sheriff Strada said, "Everything was great and I feel good. I really did pace myself, I'm not too full and I will feel very comfortable walking out of here, unlike this guy to my right who's making noises (referring to Senator Oroho).

Senator Oroh said, as he pointed out his leftover food, "Nobody touch any of this, this is going with me, and I'm going to need more than one doggy bag."   

After the judges were finished filling out their score sheets, Concessions Director Joyce Buerkle tallied up the scores, and Emcee Karen Grant-Margil announced the winners in each category.

And the winners were:

Best New Food on a Stick  -  Pretzel Dog on a Stick - Vendor (Pretzel House)

Best New Sandwich or Meal - Pulled Pork Empanadas - Vendor (Homestead Rest BBQ)

Best New Healthy Option - Veggie Burger - Vendor (Boy Scout Troop 180)

Best New Dessert - Apple Crisp - Vendor (Crazy Bout Crisp)

Best All Around Taste - Smoked Brisket on Texas Toast - Vendor (Texas Smoked BBQ)

Best Overall Creativity - Stuffed Vegetarian Mexican Pizza - Vendor (Crow's Nest Mex)

At the end of the evening The Alternative Press spoke to Concessions Director Joyce Beurkle, and asked her to comment on the event's outcome. She said, "It was a great night, everyone was terrific."

She said she especially wanted to thank all the vendors for their hard work during the busy evening food rush.

To sum up the event, the crowd enjoyed Karen Grant-Marcil as an emcee, as well as the judges, were especially entertained by the back and forth banter between Senator Steven Oroho and Sheriff Mike Strada. They all seemed to have a great time, and all took home doggie bags.

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