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Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis corn dog stand has wheels, but fair is still home


The old Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis corn dog booth is long gone.

A small whitewashed cinderblock shack that stood for five decades, it was razed as part of the Manatee County Fairground’s renovations more than a year ago.

Memories of it linger inside its replacement, a year-old 22-foot concession trailer.

“It was a little cubby hole,” Kiwanian Karen Bilderback said. “What nostalgia.”

Club members also recall the mini-crisis the booth’s absence caused for folks who absolutely, positively could not do the fair without first eating one of the club’s corn dogs.

“People thought we were just gone from the fair. We got that a lot,” said Jessica Pelot, the club’s past president, who is 30 and been dispensing corn dogs at the fair since she was 6.

“People were so used to that little concrete building,” said treasurer Mark Hildebrandt, a Kiwanian for 26 years. “Now we’re just 30-40 feet away, but it took some people a little while to realize that. They’d say they’d been looking all over for us and go, ‘Oh, there you are.’”

By day, fairgoers can follow the sandwich board sign that says, “Famous Kiwanis Corn Dogs.”

By night, look for the big lighted sign atop the trailer that says in big blue lettering, “CORN DOGS,” and the rotating police car lights, donated by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“Whatever we can do to attract people,” Hildebrandt said. “We’ve changed a few things, but we’re not hard to find.”

What hasn’t changed is the recipe for the club’s scrumptious corn dogs, a secret known by a select few.

Ron Baber is one of them.

“The secret is it works,” said the Kiwanian board member. “It just takes patience and time.”

Two kinds of cornmeal, baking powder, eggs, flour and salt go into the batter. A hot dog is dipped into it, spends three minutes in hot vegetable oil, then is placed under a heat lamp and is ready to go.

“Everybody’s got them, but ours are homemade,” said Baber, a Kiwanian for 28 years.

The concession trailer is roomier and allows the crew to dip and distribute up to 300 corn dogs on a good day.

Another advantage is it enables the club to take its specialty on the road, raising money for its scholarships.

“Before, all we could do is the fair, but now we’re mobile and can do different events,” Jessica Pelot said.

The Seafood Fest and DeSoto Parade are among the added events.

But the Manatee County Fair is the corn dog’s home.

“People come just for these,” Hildebrandt said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.