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Deep Fried Ambassador

Suzanne Stanard considered it an Internet miracle: a posting for a “fried-food eating, thrill-ride seeking, giant pumpkin-loving” blogger to serve as the State Fair’s first Deep Fried Ambassador. Or, an “emissary of awesomeness,” as she referred to it in her winning blog entry.

The judges picked Stanard for her contagious enthusiasm, personal blogging experience and writing ability, which she’s honed in her day job as a news editor for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Days after her appointment, she was tweeting live from a pre-fair luncheon after sampling The Next Big Things in deep-fried fare. “It’s Ho-Hos, not yo-yos,” she quickly corrected herself on one post. “Call me ding-dong.”

Stanard, who began her own blog only a few months ago, is having fun with her latest unpaid gig. Her original blog, Pretty Swell: Getting the Hang of Motherhood, grew out of a painful experience with postpartum depression. “There’s a real community out there for new moms,” she says. “The Web was a lifeline for me.”

Some support-seeking followers have crossed over to read Stanard’s musings at Deep Fried. Others just want to know where to find the best caramel apples at the fair. She’s happy to reach both.

Stanard’s co-workers think of her as a natural for the Deep Fried assignment, given her experience writing about agricultural and food-related topics.

Her family and friends, however, find the idea highly entertaining.

“Dad kidded me about that journalism degree finally paying off,” Stanard says. Of course, he’s the one who took her to the fair every autumn when she was growing up. This year, he was part of a three-generation trip to the fair with his granddaughter, who’s not quite 2.

On a cold, rainy Sunday morning – prime time for the stroller set – the family headed for the Ark exhibit, teething toddler in tow. Would the fair work its magic?

Of course. After face time with the squealing pigs, contented cows and other farm animals, all those picture books took on a new reality for Stanard’s daughter. “I heard a lot about moo-moos and neigh-neighs,” she says.

While she couldn’t bring herself to feed a toddler anything deep fried, Stanard’s husband willingly sampled the fare, one of the perks of ambassadorship.

Feeling the need to stretch after the chocolate-covered bacon, her favorite fair treat, Stanard deputized a friend by pinning on a silver star, and they headed for the turkey shoot.

It’s all part of capturing the sights and sounds that make up the fair. Visit the blog, and you’ll hear the Apex Lions Club barker who stretches the word “piiiiie” into five syllables, making your stomach rumble. If you’re tired of taking photos with pumpkins, consider orange barrels instead. There’s a video of Joe Carnevale, maker of the infamous “Barrel Monster,” crafting his latest creature for the State Fair.

“Blog writing is so fun because there are no rules,” says Stanard, who’s intrigued by the challenge of creating an attention-grabbing Tweet in 140 characters and building an online audience, lessons that will also come in handy at work.

So far, she’s found a lot of happy memories out there. “In their comments, people often say that a post has made them remember their visits to the fair. There’s so much shared experience, a commonality that creates a bond.”

For those who have yet to make memories at the fair this year, here are a few of the ambassador’s recommendations:

  • Try the chocolate-covered bacon. And the buffalo chicken Rangoon.
  • Don’t miss Miss Debbie’s caramel apples.
  • The flower show is dazzling. Check the schedule to see if there’s a session during your visit.
  • Go for broke on the Vertigo Swing … unless you’ve overdone the fried stuff.
  • Sneak in a little Christmas shopping. Mom could probably use a handmade pottery bowl.
  • If you’re curious about the Spider Girl, yes, the Deep Fried Ambassador knows about her … but you’ll have to find out for yourself.