State fairs are known for their eccentricities. Delaware’s is no exception.
Nestled between the livestock exhibitions and carnival games in Harrington are some of the fair’s more unique vendors, offering curious visitors a taste of the exotic and sometimes bizarre.
Along the main strip, visitors can take their pick from deep-fried candy bars to the seemingly impossible deep-fried lemonade. Around the corner await shark and alligator kabobs, as well as funnel cake hamburgers and pizza on a stick.
“Anything you can deep fry or put on a stick, you pretty much have those options here at the state fair,” said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing for Delaware’s State Fair.
But even stranger than the food you can eat at the fair are the things you can buy.
Johnny Ottinger of Bridgeville talks about what it's like to compete in the demolition derby at the Delaware State Fair Jason Minto/The News Journal
The Marketplace Tent, the fair’s main shopping area, is home to a cornucopia of vendors. There, fair-goers can purchase anything from hot tubs to duck decoys and monogrammed t-shirts to katana swords.
Yes, you read that right.
For around $50, attendees can purchase their very own Samurai gear from 5 Star Cutlery, along with any other armor they may need while roaming the fairgrounds.
Based out of Toms River, New Jersey, 5 Star Cutlery sells many types of swords, as well as axes, medieval-style helmets, shields and a wide assortment of knives. The company’s products range in price from $5 to $500.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” said owner Steve Baluta, who has been in the business of selling weaponry since he was 14, when he sold antique knives with his family at a flea market.
Baluta, now 39, has been bringing his business to the fair for 12 years. Over this period of time, he said that they have amassed quite a following.
“We have some customers who just come to the fair to buy stuff from us,” Baluta said.
Other honorable mentions for out of the ordinary vendors include Toe Ring Time, where you can get custom-fitted toe rings, and the Pocket Pets guys, who sell Sugar Gliders, which are tiny, domesticated marsupials that you can bring home for just under $600. Yes, they can actually fit in your pocket, and yes, they are adorable.
No state fair would be complete without some human oddities.
This year’s fair includes visits from some fan favorites, like the World’s Smallest Woman, World’s Smallest Horse and Snake Girl, who, according to the signs outside of her booth, has “the head of a beautiful girl and the body of an ugly snake.”
Denise Linton and her family have made a tradition out of visiting all of the different human oddity tents. The Crisfield, Maryland, residents said that their favorite is the World’s Smallest Woman, who they have visited for the past 10 years.
“Some of them are a waste of money,” Linton said, “but when you meet her and talk to her, she’s just so sweet.”
Linton said that they visit that booth every year, each time going back to ask the woman questions about herself. They have been there so many times, she said, that they have learned things about the woman’s personal life.
“She’ll answer anything for you, she’s just grateful if you give her a tip,” she said of the 29-inch tall woman, who allegedly hails from the West Indies.
Booths like these are par for the course at the state fair, said Aguilar, adding that while the state fair will always maintain some of its traditional offerings, they are very focused on targeting millennials.
One of the ways that they are doing this is by offering extreme Pogo stick shows, performed by the Xpogo Stunt Team, he said. Xpogo, which performs exhilarating jumps and flips, puts on daily shows during the fair.
“Over 97 years, we’ve developed a tradition that people are accustomed to,” Aguilar said, “so it’s important to maintain that, but over the years we’ve introduced new offerings to make sure that we stay fresh and exciting.”
Contact Jordan McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jordanlmcbride.