Fair Bets

Apple Dumplins is one of the most authentic flavors of the Mountain State Fair.

You can always nosh on a corndog at the Mountain State Fair, or tear into a Renaissance Faire-worthy Henry the VIII turkey leg, or even indulge in deep-fried Kool-Aid — which sounds like the go-to refreshment of some dystopian society in a blockbuster fantasy franchise. But at its heart, this is still a harvest fair, and given Henderson County’s deep apple roots, Bold Life recommends the uniquely authentic Apple Dumplins booth, a mainstay for 20 years that serves real apple (or peach) cobbler and country-style pintos-and-beans with onions. According to owners Ricky and Judy Long, Apple Dumplins is a “culmination of [our] history,” from childhood to the present day.

Judy, a native of Hayesville, a town in Clay County in the far southwestern corner of NC, grew up in the rural lifestyle. “We even churned our own butter and buttermilk,” she recalls. “My grandmother baked two pans of cornbread every evening: one pan for us to eat, and one pan to feed the fox dogs because there was no dog food available” — much less any supermarket nearby. Ricky is a former cabinetmaker who used his skills to design and construct their rustic-looking booth, a charming creation fully appointed inside to suggest an old-timey country kitchen, including family heirlooms, blue Mason jars, and vintage milk jugs.

Besides the Mountain State Fair, the small-business owners set up Apple Dumplins at the Cleveland County Fair in Shelby, NC, and at Oktoberfest in Walhalla, SC. “We put our heads together to make this,” says Judy, who notes that she and Ricky, former high-school sweethearts, eloped at age 18 in 1977. Inside their mobile kitchen they keep old family photos, and these, she says, “we take with us wherever we go.”

The Mountain State Fair runs September 8-17 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. For more information, see wncagcenter.org or call 828-687-1414.

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