I don’t often wish I was living in Florida, because I’m terrified of giant bugs and what the humidity does to my hair, but today I am a bit jealous of those who call the Sunshine State home. Florida has long been the home base for America’s carnival and circus workers, and as it seems America’s fair and festival circuit will be limited this year, several midway food vendors have decided to put their inventory to use and set up shop in an abandoned farmers market just outside of Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Times spoke to Matthew Lauther, a fourth-generation operator of his family’s carnival concessions business and founder of “Taste of the Fair to Go.” For the past four weeks, he and a group of 15 friends, family members, and employees have been slinging classic carnival fare to thousands of people who have been enticed by the setup of bright lights and colorful banners, underscored by pipe organ music.
“I’ve got the five main fair food groups,” Lauther told the Times. “Pizza, cotton candy, doughnut burgers, funnel cakes, and fried Oreos.”
Customers visiting Taste of the Fair to Go cannot get out of their cars, making the concept a bit more like a classic 1950s car hop drive-in than an authentic carnival midway. While not the traditional carnival experience, the promise of fried everything and giant roasted turkey legs seems to be bringing local residents the same amount of joy. Lauther says he and his team have been serving around 500 customers a day while staying open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Following the playbook of most restaurants today, Floridians who don’t feel like using the drive-thru can also order all the corn dogs, ribs-on-a-stick, and doughnut bacon burgers they desire through DoorDash.