For the first time, the State Fair of Texas has pulled back the curtain early on its Big Tex Choice Awards, its annual (fried) food competition, by releasing the list of semifinalists.
And judging by names alone — which is how this round works — they sure do love bacon. Entries include bacon-wrapped churros, bacon-wrapped pork belly on a stick, bacon burger dogs on a stick, bacon-wrapped tater dog, a "Bacontilla," and Dorito bacon fried cheese stick.
Pineapple is popular too, with "Caribbean pineapple Korn-a-Copia," fried "Pinatacolupa," and another entry called "Pina-A lot-Ta."
The oddest entry has to be fried Jell-O.
In prior years, the fair waited until August to reveal its eight finalists. But this is the 12th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards, and the event has become one of the fair's biggest PR successes. As its visibility has climbed, they've introduced a new twist every year, such as offering the public "VIP" tickets to the judging.
Unveiling the semifinalists, a previously unknown group, is its latest ploy to stretch out the buzz.
Here's the list of 2016 Big Tex Choice Awards semifinalists:
- Bacon Wrapped Churros
- Down Home Chicken Pot Pie Pocket (with mac 'n' cheese dip)
- Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly on a Stick
- Fried Cookies & Cream Sundae
- Barn Yard Burger
- Fried Jell-O
- Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers
- Fried Prime Rib Quesadill"O"
- Caribbean Pineapple Korn-a-Copia
- Funnel Cake Sundae
- Crunchy Fried Oinkers
- Holy Guacamole Balls
- Dallas' Fried Bacontilla
- Injectable Great Balls of BBQ
- Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Sliders on a Stick
- Loaded Bacon Mashed Potato Egg Roll
- Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Tater Dog
- Lollipop Fried Bacon Wrapped Quail Breast on a Stick
- Deep Fried Cannoli Bites
- Pina-A lot-Ta
- Deep Fried Cheeseburger Stuffed Onion Rings
- Seductive Fried Sea Salt Caramel Wrap
- Deep Fried Chicken Basket
- Shrimp Fritters
- Deep Fried Hawaiian Hoops
- Southern Fried Chicken & Dumplin's
- Deep Fried Nachos
- State Fair Cookie Fries
- Deep Fried Pulled Pork "Funyun" Dings
- State Fair Edible Colas
- Deep Fried Smoked Salmon & Bacon Croquettes
- Texas Fried Buffalo Quail
- Dorito Bacon Fried Cheese Stick
- Texas Fried Pinatacolupa
The contest kicked off on July 12. These 34 semifinalists were chosen from 55 entries.
Never before released to the public, the selection process used in the competition is done by a panel of internal judges and requires blind judging from start to finish, meaning the panel does not know which concessionaire is behind each food creation.
This allows for the scoring to be based on the food entry itself and leaves no room for bias toward or against concessionaires. One year of experience as a concessionaire at the fair is required for entry.
One interesting item of note: The judges base their choices solely on which food names and descriptions sound the most appealing. Therefore, coming up with an enticing name and description is part of the game.
The tasting doesn't even begin until the next round. Over the next several weeks, judges will evaluate uniqueness, presentation, creativity, taste, and whether a fairgoer is likely to buy the item.
The eight finalists will be announced in August. Concessionaires who do not make the cut can still introduce their items as a new food.
The final judging will take place on August 28 at 2 pm in the historic Tower Building at Fair Park. Tickets to the Big Tex Choice Awards are on sale August 1 at BigTex.com/Tickets. Tickets are $100, and there's a limited number of seats available.