Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Festivals, Carnivals & Fairs

Thank God it’s Monday. I look forward to all Mondays, as they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you so happy Monday!



It’s officially summertime fun season. No wonder National Great Outdoors Month is celebrated in June. Although, it’s great for July, August, and September, too. Some of my favorite summertime memories are of festivals, carnivals, and fairs that I attended, as a child, and to which I took my own children.

Like most people, I’ve always used the words interchangeably. However, I’ve learned that, while they do have some common denominators, each one is actually unique in its other offerings.

According to an article,’s Differences Between Carnival vs. Fair vs. Festival (Aug. 10, 2021), there are three basic differences between a carnival, a fair, and a festival, which are as follows:

  • Carnivals are typically traveling shows [like circus troops] with a focus on fun games and thrilling rides.
  • Fairs are state-sponsored events that often have unique food, rides, games, and feature competitions (such as livestock judging and cooking contests).
  • Festivals, while similar to carnivals and fairs, are tied to specific religious, seasonal, institutional or artistic events.



Festivals offer food, vendors, shows/entertainment, & (to a lesser degree) special social activities. They generally focus on a theme, religious event, holiday, or the like.

Some southeast Michigan June festivals include St. Helen’s Blue Gill Festival, St. Stanislaus’ Polish Festival, Taylor’s Summer Festival, Chelsea’s Sounds & Sights Festival, and Howell’s Michigan Challenge Balloon Fest.

New Orleans’ “Mardi Gras” is the largest American festival. However, Brazil’s “Carnival” (despite the name), is the largest festival in the world.


Carnivals often travel from one town to another and state to state, as a troop, under a business name, like the TJ Schmidt Carnival, which holds an annual 5-day event in Algonac, MI; where we lived from 1966 to 1977, during the beginning years of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM family business.

Algonac is known as the “Pickerel Capital of the World”. The carnival, which is held annually around the 4th of July, celebrates the Algonac Lions Pickeral Tournament. It’s been a big, summer event in the “Blue Water Area” since 1938. By the way, the Algonac Lions Club was officially chartered in 1940.

Dad was a proud member of the Pearl Beach Lions Club, just a little way down the street from our house, for many years. We often got to ride on the Algonac Lions Club River Queen trolly with him during the town’s many different parades.

Carnival troops, like Schmidt’s, focus on family fun and entertainment, for every generation; through an array of food, midway games, and rides. When the carnival’s in town, there’s always a few small parades throughout the event. Then a big parade at the end for the “Pickerel Tournament Queen” and her court.

Algonac always holds a contest for the queen and court, who get to sit on a special float, in the final parade. I remember my sister, Debbie, being on the court one year, before we moved to St. Clair.

Carnival troop members sometimes dress in decorative costumes and participate in the parade, alongside the local event sponsors, school bands, cheer squads, Scouts, sports groups, etc.; marching between the various floats, led by the grand marshal’s vehicle.

During the 5-day carnival, there’s also an antique car show, antique boat parade, kids and pets parade, food eating contests, fireworks display, 5K walk/run, fishing tournaments, and a beer tent, where local bands play a variety of music.

This is not a Cook Book – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 53)


IT’S HARD TO SAY which is worse, the person who doesn’t know what he wants and won’t be happy until he gets it, or the one who knows what he wants and can’t get it.

Very little can stop the person who is on their way to where they want to go in life. They’re motivated by enthusiasm for what they want to accomplish. I’m thinking now of the blind woman who was determined to learn how to cook.

Each day she worked with her ingredients, tasting each and marking the containers so that she would know how to find them. She worked and worked with the stove and how to regulate the heat so that she would not undercook, nor overcook anything.

With each new day, she set for herself one thing she would learn to do. Her exhilaration at the small successes only made her more anxious to tackle a bigger accomplishment.

Within six months, she proudly entered her from-scratch chocolate cake in the county fair, and took home the blue ribbon, awarded to her by six judges who tasted 25 other entries and did not know that she was blind.



During the 1800s, State Fairs started popping up all over the country. The first official “state fair” is said to be New York’s, which started in 1841 in Syracuse. Did you know there are only two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island) in the U.S. that have never sponsored a state fair?

Some states host more than one. Likewise, some states have many county fairs, while others have none. features ‘Beyond the Trivia – State Fairs’, by Dick Preston (July 29, 2021), is a great informative article about state and county fairs.

Michigan has two State Fairs, one in the lower peninsula (aka: “The Mitten”) and one in the upper peninsula (aka: the U.P.). The very first Michigan State Fair, in “The Mitten”, was originally held in Ann Arbor, in 1839. However, it wasn’t well attended so it wasn’t repeated. However, it was successfully revived in Detroit, in 1849.

The official Michigan State Fair Grounds land was purchased in 1905, on Woodward Avenue at 8 Mile Road, including a race track. By 1966, attendance had peaked at about 1.2 million attendees. Unfortunately, over 40 years later, the fair’s attendance had declined more than 80%, to nearly 217,000 visitors.

The Upper Peninsula State Fair has been held in Escanaba, MI since 1928. It’s the oldest state fair in Michigan. The week-long event is usually held around mid-August. It’s been operating independently of state funding since 2010.

In 2009, Michigan’s governor, Jennifer Granholm, ceased funding for the state fairs, due to state budgeting issues and declining attendances. Nevertheless, in 2012, under Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan State Fair was revived and relocated; moving to Novi’s Suburban Collection Showplace, where it’s been ever since.

The Michigan Association of Fairs & Exhibitions (MAFE) is the statewide group, organized in 1885, to represent Michigan’s 86 registered local and county fairs. Michigan’s oldest county fair is Lenawee County’s agricultural society, which started in 1839.

Fairs are generally community sponsored, focusing on featured competitions and/or contests. They’re centered on agriculture, education, and/or culture – like the nationwide 4-H Fairs. They may have some rides but that’s not their focus. Some fairs feature only arts and/or crafts, alongside food offerings.

There’s a wonderfully informative article, at (with 29 recipes), to ‘…Recreate the Best State Fair Food at Home…’ – written by Megan Porta (August 25, 2021). She listed “10 of the most popular state fair foods…”, as follows:

  1. Deep Fried Oreos
  2. Fried Chicken in a Waffle Cone
  3. Deep Fried Snickers
  4. Pizza Cone
  5. Cannoli Dessert Nachos
  6. Deep Fried PB&J
  7. Corn in a Cup
  8. Turkey Legs
  9. Deep Fried Cheese Curds
  10. Cookie Fries

Did you notice most of the choices are fried (or deep fried)? I’m surprised that the classic, deep fried, treat known as “Elephant Ears” didn’t make Megan’s list. That, as well as other classics like caramel apples and cotton candy, were always my favorites – and Mom’s, too.

Below is Mom’s secret recipe, for imitating “Elephant Ears” (like Barnum & Bailey’s Circus) at home; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 38).

NOTE: peanut oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil are heart healthy choices for deep frying. However, it’s still best to limit your intake of commercially fried foods. The consensus on my Google search suggests not having fried foods more than once or twice a month, at most.

In honor of National Candy Month, here’s Mom’s imitation for “Carnival Cotton Candy”, as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 74).


Whenever I go to a festival, carnival, or fair, it’s hard not to indulge in (at least) one of those once-in-a-great-while “taboo treats”. I’ve seen some of Megan’s “top 10”, also featured on Noah Cappe’s hit show, Carnival Eats – which gives me what I call “Fair Food Fever”. Some may call it being a “junk food junkie”…

The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes, Revised (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1978, 4th Printing; p. 1)


BEING A HOPELESSLY INCURABLE junk food addict has its drawbacks in a world that today cries out for a better balanced diet.

When famous recording star, Larry Groce, first coined the title ‘Junk Food Junkie’ in his best-selling album of the same name, those of us who had been hooked on hamburgers, Hostess Twinkies, haute cuisine of the other snack foods, could breathe a sigh of relief – somebody understood. But nobody seemed to be doing anything about it…

Of course, the cookbooks published weren’t doing anything to help us cure the chronic case of junk food addiction because they were feeling the pressures of the need for nutritional education, cancelling out the credibility of snack foods as having any value at all.

Well, my friends, only half of the story was being told and so I began the publication of recipes for fast food imitations you could prepare at home and enjoy as if you were eating out.


Some common denominators of festivals, carnivals, and fairs include the following.

  • They’re only held for a temporary period of time.
  • They’re usually held in the same location, annually; but they’re not there on a permanent basis, like amusement parks.
  • They’re not as big as amusement parks.
  • There’s always some kind of souvenirs and food/drinks to buy – if not from the venue, itself, then from nearby supporting vendors and privately owned food trucks/trailers.

In fact, food has been and still is such a popular denominator in almost every celebration and event that food festivals (and food truck wars) have become extremely popular events, themselves, especially during the summer months. By the way, July begins next Monday, which celebrates National Independent Retailer Month, among other things.


In honor of Thursday, being National Onion Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “The Buddin’ Onion” (like Chili’s Awesome Blossom, Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion, and Tony Roma’s Onion Ring Loaf), as seen in her self-published cookbook, Secret Make Alike Recipes [Revised] (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; May 1997, p. 26).

Also included, is a re-share of her “Archer Teacher Fish Batter” recipe, as seen on her 1984-1985 “Free Samples Sheet”. As always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.


P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


June observes, among other things… National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, National Rose Month, National Turkey Lovers Month, and National Camping Month.

Today is also… National Pralines Day.

Tomorrow is… National Strawberry Parfait Day and National Catfish Day.

Wednesday, June 26th, is… National Coconut Day and National Chocolate Pudding Day.

June 27th, is… National Ice Cream Cake Day, and National Orange Blossom Day. Plus, as the last Thursday in June (for 2024), it’s also National Bomb Pop Day.

Friday, June 28th, is… National Paul Bunyan Day and National Alaska Day.

Saturday, June 29th, is… National Camera Day, National Waffle Iron Day, and National Almond Buttercrunch Day.

Sunday, June 30th, is… National Meteor Watch Day and Social Media Day.


…26 down, 26 to go – and, just like that, we’re halfway through 2024!


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