tampabay.com

Fare at the fair not for faint hearts

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published April 21, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - As the Hernando County Fair was being set up Wednesday on the grounds south of town on U.S. 41, Dan Weaver was in his small tan trailer he calls The Olde Smokehouse making the big fat sandwich he calls the Amish Dagwood.

First he put an open 6-inch hoagie bun on a sheet of foil.

Then he put some hand-carved ham and four strips of bacon and a couple of plugs of hard salami on his griddle.

Then he put some Swiss cheese and some Cheddar cheese and some Colby Jack cheese on top of all that meat.

The fair is no place for responsible eating. And this is no ham and cheese on Wonder white. The Amish Dagwood comes with three different meats, three different cheeses, and lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mustard or mayo, or Miracle Whip for weight-watching pansies. It costs $7.50 and weighs about a pound.

Enter Jim Malcolm. The Hernando County School Board member was there helping set up the school displays in the hall across the way. He got hungry.

He approached The Olde Smokehouse.

He ordered an Amish Dagwood.

"It's more than one person can normally eat," Weaver said.

Weaver is 55 years old. He kind of has a Gibsonton address, and kind of has a Lisbon, Ohio, address, but mainly he drives a van and pulls a camper and sleeps in there. He's been in the fair business almost 40 years.

Subway, he said, can have their sandwich artists. He's a sandwich innovator.

All this Dagwood stuff started one Saturday night in summer 1977 in a 25-foot trailer that looked like a Swiss chalet. Weaver was in Wellston, Ohio, at the Jackson County Fair. It had been real hot all week long, and people don't like to eat as much when it's so darn hot, so Weaver wasn't selling much.

But on the fair's last night, the story goes, it got cooler, and it was demolition derby night, and he had all this food he was going to have to get rid - sell it or pitch it - so he said, well, what the hey, might as well.

He called it Amish for the smoked, home-cooked meats.

He called it Dagwood for Dagwood Bumstead in the classic comic strip Blondie who makes ludicrously large sandwiches on late-night junkets to the fridge.

Weaver sold 250 that night.

Coming to the fair and even attempting to eat healthy, of course, is like going to McDonald's and ordering a salad or those silly apples in a bag. It just doesn't make sense. Live a little.

At this fair, vendors are serving Italian sausage, Polish sausage, sausage dogs, hot dogs, corn dogs, chili dogs, chicken and ribs, chicken tenders, chicken wings, chicken on a stick, cheese on a stick, steak and cheese with onions and peppers ...

... feeling fat yet? ...

... pulled pork, pork kabob, shish kabob, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, nachos, pizza by the slice, ice cream cones with chocolate-dipped tops, curly fries, cheese fries, loaded fries, popcorn, kettle corn, caramel corn, caramel apples, candy apples, cotton candy and turkey legs fair entertainment coordinator Brian Chytka likens to "Bam Bam clubs."

In an average week, Weaver goes through up to 150 pounds of bacon, 100 pounds of ham and 75 pounds of cheese.

The calorie count for a Dagwood?

"Couldn't tell you," Weaver said.

Fat grams?

"Couldn't tell you."

"I've not bothered to check it out," he said. "But it'll clog an artery or two if you eat enough."

But one?

One won't hurt.

"You have all four food groups," Weaver said. "You have the bread, the meat, the dairy and the vegetable."

So Malcolm ate. And ate. And ate. Until he didn't want to eat anymore.

"I'm at the point now," Malcolm said, "where if I finished it I'd be uncomfortable."

The sensible member of the School Board wrapped up the rest of his Amish Dagwood.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

If you go

Everyone's heading to the Fair

Where: Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., on the south side of Brooksville

Parking: $2 per carload. Enter on Oliver Street from U.S. 41 and park on the north side of the grounds. Once those spots are filled, parking will be across U.S. 41; sheriff's deputies will provide escorts across the highway.

Admission: $5 for adults; $3 for kids 4-12; kids 3 and under free.

Information: 796-4552 or on the Internet at www.hernandocountyfair.org

Today's Schedule

1-11 p.m. Midway open ($18 unlimited ride armbands)

1-8 p.m. Baby animal barn

2 p.m. Hernando County Beauty Pageant and Baby Contest

3 p.m. Corn dog-eating contest, Outside Stage

7 p.m. Funnel cake-eating contest, Outside Stage

8 p.m. AutoWay Ford IPRA Championship Rodeo ($12 adults, $5 kids 4-12, 3 and younger free; includes fair admission)

AT THE FAIR

Around the grounds

- Ronda Moniz, who travels as the manager of a Netterfield's lemonade and cheese-on-a-stick stand but actually calls north Hernando County home, says she's got the best fresh-squeezed lemonade in the "galaxy." Her boast: "Squeezed with aggression, shooken with tender love and care."

- Best sign (so far)? On the front of the Zipper ride: EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE PEOPLE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RIDE THIS DEVICE.

- Dan Weaver, the Amish Dagwood sandwich seller chronicled today, was impaled by a piece of a Ferris wheel in summer 1978. In the front, out the back, lived to tell the tale. More on that later this week.

For continuing county fair coverage, go to www.tampabay.com.