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In search of UFOs at the Prairie Arts Festival

September 16, 2011

It was Labor Day Weekend at the Prairie Arts Festival in West Point. For some, it was an opportunity to fill their homes with arts and crafts.  or me, it was another chance to search for UFOs (Unusual Fried Objects). After a hearty morning run I continued the workout by exercising some common-sense thinking. Calories out needed to be replenished with calories in, and I was in just the right place to do it. I should probably confess that my pre-run warm-up walk happened to be right through the heart of the food truck area, doubling as an incentive-gathering mission. I was already planning my day calorically before I had expended any – the key word for the day would be “pacing.”
Somehow, I managed to convince my running buddy that alligator-on-a-stick was just what we needed as a post-race reward. I’m sure that somewhere in Cajun country, alligator is a perfectly acceptable breakfast meat, and both of us were experienced in adapting to new cultures.  Maybe Cajuns don’t eat it deep-fried on a stick for breakfast, but sometimes ya’ gotta’ dance with who brung ya’. 
Once the rest of the family arrived on site, we reverted back to festival tradition and converged on the funnel cake stand. Since funnel cakes are not exactly new and different but still delicious, I tried to make good choices by purchasing one for the parental units and one for Daughter and Daughter’s Little Friend (DLF). I knew from experience that nobody in our group ever ate a whole cake singlehandedly, and I would soon be offered a bite. I guess that makes me a Funnel Cake Finagler. It’s a title I have learned to live with. 
Down at the end of one of the artsy-crafty aisles was another miniature food court of sorts. Having walked at least half a block by then, it was time to replenish expended calories again. One of the few edibles Daughter and I have found that we both enjoy is Dippin’ Dots ice cream. There’s just something cool about a cup full of frozen pellets that melt into a mouthful of ice cream. Technology can be tasty. It is advantageous to be the Chief Fundraiser for such transactions, because the Chief Fundraiser gets to try at least a bite or two of whatever he funds. The Funnel Cake Finagler’s alter ego: the Dippin’ Dot Wheeler Dealer. 
Right next to the little bitty Dippin’ Dot trailer was the we-fry-everything-you-have-never-imagined giant food truck. From calamari to turkey legs, the menu signs seemed never-ending. But one thing stood out to my discerning eyes: Shark-a-Bob. Or Shark-Kabob. Or Shark on a Stick. Lots of signs, but no hesitation – I got directly in line and ordered one, unlike some around me who seemed overwhelmed with the volume of choices. In texture and in appearance, it was very much like a giant version of the fish sticks I ate regularly as a youngster, just a bit more tender and literally on a stick. But it definitely answered the ISO UFO call. 
By the time we walked back to the center of the festival, it was time for lunch. In an earlier “I’m hungry” discussion, DLF wowed me with this statement: “I want Greek for lunch.” Then she grinned: “I’m a foodie.” I didn’t know they made foodies out of 6thgraders! Still delightedly stunned, we made our way to the Greek food truck, which of course had lines stretching all the way across the street. DLF ordered a lamb gyro. Really, lamb? Are you sure you are in 6th grade and in cahoots with Daughter? I was so impressed. I ordered a paella platter. Paella is more Spanish than Greek, but coming from a truck in the middle of West Point, Miss., there’s really no point in getting persnickety. Plus I got way more food this way – yellow rice, lots of sautéed veggies, Greek salad, and my choice of three meats – and I chose them all. 
The last food stop of the day was the homemade ice cream stand. It wasn’t nearly as hot that day as it usually is at Prairie Arts, so we were thankful.  But it was certainly warm enough for ice cream. (We eat it on Christmas Day, though, so our family may not be the best reference point.) And it was truly homemade – I saw them dipping it out of the Rube Goldberg-esque, John Deere-driven ice cream buckets. I was hot, it was cold, and … that’s enough. Long live Prairie Arts. Long live UFOs. 

Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff.  He welcomes your comments at

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