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Posted September 4, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Shenandoah County Fair patrons go crazy for stand's sizzling snacks

Manda Rudolph fries a Twinkie
Manda Rudolph of High View, W.Va., holds a fried Twinkie she prepared for a customer at the Shenandoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

Manda Rudolph holds a fried Twinkie
Manda Rudolph of High View, W.Va., holds a fried Twinkie she prepared for a customer at the Shenandoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

Jenni Spriggs bites into a hot fried Oreo
Jenni Spriggs, 27, of Stephens City, bites into a hot fried Oreo at the fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

Jake Sauer eats a fried Oreo
Jake Sauer, 29, of Richmond, bites into a fried Oreo at the Shenandoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

Jake Sauer bites into a fried oreo
Jake Sauer, 29, of Richmond bites into a fried Oreo at the Shenadoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The following is a synopsis of how one woman went from zero to heaven in a matter of moments.

An impromptu photo shoot of the cook forces Jenni Spriggs to wait to place her food order, adding time to the normal two or three minutes that it would take to get her selection ready anyway.

"Better be worth the wait," she says.

Upon receiving said order -- three fried Oreos -- Spriggs walks away, returning to two friends who accompanied her. She quickly learns two things: The contents are hot, which she should have known if she read a sign where she placed her order, and powdered sugar, which tops off the Oreos, has the ability to make a U-turn toward your clothes when you blow on the hot food it covers.

This is not a good sequence of events for Spriggs. But then, she sinks her teeth in.

"Oh, my God," Spriggs says.

Another bite, and then another, and a broken record starts playing itself.

"Oh, my God," says Spriggs, 27, of Stephens City. "It's like the only way I can describe it."

If curiosity killed the cat, then Spriggs is going to need multiple nine lives. Like many others this week at the Shenandoah County Fair, she was a first-time eater and subsequent fan of various fried snacks provided by Manda Rudolph at her Fried Frenzy stand.

Oreos, Twinkies, a wide selection of miniature candy bars and more than a half-dozen types of fudge are all deep fried and offered at the stand, the first time the fair has offered such treats. The fried fudge is Rudolph's own creation.

The booth is also Rudolph's first food-vending experience, adding to the glass jewelry and ornaments she sells at another shop at the fair, Glass by Manda.

"It's a complete experiment," she said. "A lot of people are curious and still not sure about it."

Unusual fried foods are common at many fairs, particularly in the West, where Rudolph, now a High View, W.Va., resident, once lived. One of the most surprising items she has come across is fried Coke, which was available at the Texas State Fair.

Fried Frenzy needs to grow before going that far off the normal fried food beaten path. Rudolph is still unsure whether she's in the business for the long run, but this week has gone well enough that, if she had to make a decision today, she would opt to continue touring with her stand and purchase something more permanent to work out of.

"The thing is, if the dessert thing fails, you can go with pickles, mushrooms, zucchini," Rudolph said.

Publicity, she said, is the most important thing. Once customers are reeled in to try some food, they are hooked.

Look no further than Jake Sauer, 29, of Richmond. He has made a trip to Fried Frenzy part of his daily routine, with his girlfriend, Katy Bennett, of Strasburg.

"I like to try new things," Sauer said.

But he doesn't just try them. Sauer makes a big deal out of it, professing to bystanders just how heavenly the fried food he has placed in his mouth is.

"There should be nothing but these booths around here," Sauer said. "I don't want a hot dog. ... I would dress up as a fried Oreo and walk around this place."

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