Kate Skovran likes chicken on a stick when she goes to the fair. Why?
"Because it's chicken on a stick," Skovran, 17, said, laughing. "You've got to love that."
Sure, Kate admitted, the breaded, deep-fried treat was a little greasy, and the $5 it cost was a little excessive, but she guaranteed the price was worth the crispy result.
Kate's opinion that a little grease and too much dough is worth it appears to be shared by many during county fair season. Every week there seem to be carnival rides, midway games and vendors of deep-fried, double-dipped, chocolate-covered goodness popping up in different parts of the state.
On Thursday, the Lexington Lions Club Bluegrass Fair opened with food vendors purveying everything from candied apples and cotton candy to corn on the cob and sausage sandwiches.
Last week, it was the Jessamine County Fair in Nicholasville, where no one we surveyed disagreed that the food for sale was unhealthy and overpriced. Even so, plenty of people seemed undeterred.
James Woodward was busy protesting as he paid for his slice of pepperoni pizza.
"I could have gone to Outback Steakhouse with all the money I've spent on food here," he grumbled.
Woodward said although it might make sense to eat at home before he came to the fair, it usually didn't happen.
"It's not usually a planned thing," Woodward said. "I just try to make the kids happy for a minute and hope they don't make me come back another night."
Only a minute after buying his pizza, Woodward was back for two more slices. His fiancée was hungry, too.
James Fisher, one of the concession stand owners at the Jessamine fair, said sales had dropped slightly because of the tight economy, but only a little.
"People come to have a good time, so they're still willing to splurge on food, even if that means they have to save up for a little while," Fisher said.
Another concession stand owner, Victor Joseph, said fair-goers are willing to spend not only money, but any hard-earned heart-healthy points they might have accumulated.
"I don't sell anything healthy," Joseph said bluntly.
"If I sold veggies, I'd have to deep-fry them," he said. "Corn dog will kill you. Chicken on a stick will kill you. Polish sausage will double-kill you. Funnel cake will triple-kill you.
"But I suppose we're no worse than the fast-food places."
Joseph said that no matter how unhealthy fair food is, people buy it.
"People come to the fair to have fun, and they see the food as a traditional part of the fun," Joseph said.
People do seem to enjoy fair food.
"My favorite part is the funnel cake," said Lachelle Parks, 20, of Lexington. "I've always eaten them."
Funnel cake batter is made from a mix. A stream of the batter is then crisscrossed into hot oil. Really hot.
"The only thing you have to watch out for is the oil," said Brian Smith, one of the vendors at the Jessamine fair. "It's almost 400 degrees, so the funnel cakes float to the surface."
Sure enough, Smith's funnel cakes swam to the surface in a matter of seconds, golden brown and puffed up to three times their original size. He tops the funnel cakes with chocolate, strawberry, cinnamon sugar or caramel.
However, Smith said that none of those toppings could tempt him.
"I make so many, so I smell them all day, and I just can't eat them now."
Apparently, fair food is best as an occasional treat.