The Minnesota State Fair begins this week and a Brainerd family will again be providing fried fruit on a stick.
Last year, Fred and Carol Helmer and their grown daughters, Alison Gominsky and Kristin Erlandson, took their product - in development for 14 years - to the state fair.
It started as an experiment as a grape was dropped into the cheese curd batter.
The Helmers first applied to be a vendor at the state fair in 1992 but were told they weren't the right fit or there wasn't the right space. They kept at it. Last year they made the big show.
Taco John's new restaurant on Washington Street in northeast Brainerd is now open, just a few blocks east of the former location.
» Purchase reprints of this photo.Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
Their batter-dipped deep-fried fruit on a stick comes in a variety of fresh fruit combinations and has powered sugar, sugar and cinnamon or chocolate toppings. The Helmer family said the key is in the tasty, sweet secret batter (no trans fat involved), which they describe as tasting almost like a pie or a cobbler, but a little different because of the special batter. Pieces are about the size of a grape and are on a bamboo stick. The deep frying takes about a minute.
Beyond the fried fruit and fruit smoothies of last year, they've added what Carol Helmer jokingly calls "naked" fruit or fresh fruit bowls sans the batter covering. And they'll now have a fried fruit sundae with vanilla ice cream and topping options that include chocolate.
Helmer said they've made another milestone by being included this year in the state fair's Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, which is sold locally.
"It's sort of a big deal to be in the blue book," Helmer said.
Helmer said this year they will be back by the grandstand near Fox 9 News.
"We are just looking forward to being there for another year," she said.
The state fair begins its 12-day run Thursday.
RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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