PALMETTO -- It wouldn't be a county fair without corn dogs.
But attendees at the Manatee County Fair of the Century should not worry: they will not hurt for food options.
The fair boasts about 25 food vendors, with everything from Italian sausage to boiled Cajun peanuts to strawberry shortcake. Fair manager Dan West said the number of food vendors has generally remained the same and the "quality is so good."
"They try not to create too much redundancy, so they all can make money," West said. Some vendors have served Manatee County fair crowds for 40 years or more and are locals themselves, like Kim Cook.
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Cook's stand serves traditional fair food such as boiled peanuts and lemon shake-ups. She's a driver's education teacher at Bayshore High School and runs the stand at the Manatee County Fair and Hunsader's Pumpkin Festival. She most enjoys the socialization at the fair.
"You see a lot of people you don't see every day," Cook said. "And I get to see a lot of kids (I've taught) from the past." Cook's been boiling peanuts and shaking lemons at the Manatee County Fair for the past ten years.
Sharron Bannon-Tally has had her stand, Sharron's, at the Manatee County Fair for 43 years. The Canadian-born stand leader works with a staff of four others to serve Philly cheese steak, Italian sausage, Polish sausage, nachos and French fries. The crew has traveled all over the United States and Canada.
"We went as far as we could until the road ran out," Bannon-Tally said.
And the Manatee County Fair wouldn't be the Manatee County Fair without the good ol' standbys at the northern end of the fairgrounds; the
Manatee County Cattlemen's Association and the Hope International Ministries Filling Station.
Ed Case, who was working the Filling Station on Friday, said the Filling Station is undergoing a name change from the Hope International Ministries Filling Station to the Palmetto Filling Station. But the name is just about the only thing that will change.
"We're just trying to get people used to the name change right now," Case said. "We're using all the same recipes they were using." The sign at the fair, for now, still says Hope International Ministries.
Case said his favorite food prepared by the Filling Station is the pulled pork sandwich.
"You can only eat so many burgers," Case said with a laugh. But if fairgoers want to try more than one sandwich, they can step over to the Cattlemen's Association stand. Their sign reads: "real food for real people."
Bradenton's Chop Shop provides fresh hamburger to the Cattlemen's Association stand and this year the association added an additional topping they don't expect many people will turn down.
"We're combining a little swine with our beef this year and we added bacon," said Gene Wingate, past president of the Manatee County Cattlemen's Association. Wingate said all of the proceeds from the food stand support youth agriculture programs in Manatee County.
In addition to one of the best bacon cheeseburgers found in the county, the Cattlemen's Association's other sandwich can't be missed, either.
"The barbecue beef is the best at the fair and we've been here the longest," Wingate said.
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.