Tasty homemade County Fair traditions

A fair isn’t complete without those familiar tastes and smells of good old-fashioned homemade foods, drinks and candies people have enjoyed for generations.

The Chautauqua County Fair opens its food stands around 1 p.m. daily and keeps the food sizzling and drinks flowing until 11 p.m.

Richard Pokoj and his wife, Ginger, have been frying waffles together for nearly 25 years. Tony’s Sugar Waffles got its name from Richard’s father, and the secret family recipe is based on his grandfather’s small home tradition.

In 1972, Tony turned his father’s great tasting waffles into a commercial business.

Richard remembered working alongside his father from 8 years old and on.

“Demo nights are our biggest nights,” Richard said. “We sell the most waffles at night.”

“We make them home-made and they are fresh daily,” Ginger added. “Only four people know this old-fashioned recipe from scratch. Richard owns the business now, and is carrying on the family tradition.”

Family business is something most of the vendors have in common.

Dennis Fowler proudly recalled his family’s famous taffy and candy apples have been around for nearly a century.

“My grandfather started it in Canada, at Crystal Beach,” he said. “My grandfather wanted to make salt-water taffy. He had six children, and his four sons followed in his footsteps. I am third generation.”

The candy is more of a take-home product, so people tend to buy the taffy and apples for future enjoyment.

“We got farther along and our flavors progressed,” Fowler said. “We started out with eight flavors and now we have 17. It started out as an after-church idea. My grandfather made the first stand at Crystal Beach, and it was the church-goers who would buy his taffy.”

“We are a big happy family here,” he continued. “We all stick together, so when any of us needs anything everyone is willing to lend a helping hand.”

Gretchen Martino remembers following her father around the family-owned and operated Santillo’s Italian Sausage Stand. Her grandfather started it in 1934.

“We have a following for the Italian sausage and the Philly cheese steaks,” she said. “We provide waitress service for the family during dinner time. I have been doing this all my life. When I was 16 years old I was a waitress, cook and did everything.”

Martino said her stand is one of the few that provides fresh veggies.

“It is all fresh and made daily,” she said. “Each area we go to; we have a local produce place we get our veggies from.”

Lorey Campese owns the Campi’s Pizza Place on the Boardwalk Boulevard in Dunkirk. The thick pizza and rich taste has been in the family for three generations.

“We have a family of 13 still involved,” he said about working at the fair. “This is how we make our living.”

Whether it is the fried foods, candy, or wine slushies … everyone loves the family tradition of fair foods.

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