Smells Along the Expo Food Trail
Most discourses on IAAPA Expo feature new products, educational opportunities, and networking events. Those usually have been my focus during the 30-plus years I’ve been chronicling this awesome event. I have never written about the various smells within the Expo. I don’t even think it ever occurred to me to do so.
But this year, as I rode the escalator down to the trade show floor, all my senses went on alert. Colorful sights, kinetic energy, and colorful lights greeted me as I walked onto the trade show floor. That’s when my nose woke up.
The first thing I remember smelling that morning was the aroma of newly laid carpeting. However, I soon forgot the carpety scent as I walked through the area where many of the food and food equipment exhibitors were located. All other smells were quickly surpassed by the savory aromas emanating from the fun food being prepared and served from the various booths.
A primer on Expo food exhibitors might be beneficial at this point. It’s quite simple. If a food and beverage exhibitor wants to get attention from the more than 42,000 attendees who walk by the booth during the week, they have to be sampling the product. As a result, long lines form at the booth, and whatever product is being offered is scarfed down as attendees walk quickly to position themselves in the next line.
Perennial food exhibitors I’ve encountered with long lines are Perky’s Pizza and Lil’ Orbits doughnuts. Emily, who was handing out new flavors of Dippin’ Dots, said her most requested flavor was brownie batter. Can’t smell it, but wow, was it tasty! Another yearly favorite of mine are flat doughnuts called Beaver Tails. As I stood in line, the smells of hot dough from the booth greeted me with a smile.
I also learned a few things I had never thought about. I followed a popcorn trail to C. Cretors & Company for a few samples and to also learn from a big sign posted in the booth saying, “We invented the popcorn machine.” Who knew?
Paragon International (supplier of food preparation equipment) noted it “manufactures fun,” and first-time exhibitor Uno Foods is the “undisputed inventor of deep-dish pizza.”
Later, as I walked through the games and arcade exhibits, I came up with an idea. Why not combine a redemption game with a food product? Score 500 points and win two slices of pizza. If it has ever been done, I’m not aware of it. In an environment where every company is trying to outdo another with fresh ideas, this may be the next big thing. Parkgoers and fairgoers would no longer have to decide whether to spend their money on food or games. Problem solved. You’re welcome.
There were copious amounts of food to sample, and I did my fair share. However, it was two first-time exhibitors that won over my taste buds. Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery was sampling various flavors of cheese curds, including a selection of deep-fried beauties. The Margaritaville Ice Cream booth featured frozen treats on a stick, including “Mocha Me Crazy” which turned out, after a lot of tasting, to be my favorite!
Sure, it was all scrumptious fun, but I soon realized I had picked one heck of a week to start my diet.
Tim O’Brien is a veteran outdoor entertainment journalist and is a longtime Funworld contributor. He has authored many books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities and is the only journalist in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.