If you crave some creative, perhaps slightly strange food, try hanging out with Jason Faria for a day at the The Fair at the PNE – just don’t be on any kind of diet.
The Surrey resident is among food kings at the summer fair, which gets going for another year this Saturday (Aug. 19).
Faria’s Next Gen Concessions company operates six different food stands at the fair, featuring hot dogs, corndogs, cotton candy, candied apples, funnel cakes and other high-calorie treats.
Faria’s dad, Jack Hunter, was a legendary pitchman who spent 73 of his 85 years working at the PNE, prior to his death two years ago.
“The first year I worked there (at the PNE), I was nine years old and I was only allowed to scoop ice cream and nothing else. That was 21 years ago,” said Faria, who lives in the Grandview Heights area of Surrey.
“I’m driving there right now,” he added on Monday. “I’ll be doing 14 hours a day there until (the first week of September). I know every inch of those grounds.”
This year, the company’s Super Footlong Hotdogs stand is celebrating its 60th anniversary at the fair. To celebrate, they’ve created a Double Bacon Mac ‘N Cheese Super Footlong Hotdog.
“People put hot dogs in their mac and chese all the time, so we just went with that,” Faria said. “We expect it to be huge.”
The food item might not sound as crazy as Cricket Fries – also for sale at this year’s PNE – but Faria is proud of his creativity with a big ol’ hot dog.
“People care about what they’re spending their money on, and they want to try new and unique things – crazy things,” Faria said.
“When we took over (the company) in 2013, we were pretty standard in terms of what we offered – foot-long hot dogs, corndogs – you got ‘em original, you ate it, you liked it,” he added. “We wanted to expand that. When you want to attract people to your business, you can’t just offer the same old thing, especially at a place like the PNE. You have to give (fair-goers) a reason to try the food. And a lot of our food just comes from sitting around, trying new things and eating, seeing what works and what doesn’t.”
Years ago, a pizza dog at the fair was enough to turn heads – and, for some, turn stomachs.
These days, poutine-topped funnel cake is a popular offering.
“That was awarded the best food at the Calgary Stampede – the best savoury food,” Faria noted. “It’s a sweet funnel cake with icing sugar, and then we put Montreal cheese curds and gravy on top of that. People love it.”
Other unique food items at this year’s PNE include Crispy Chicken Feet on a Stick, Deep Fried Pizza Bites, Oreo Rice Pudding and a Rolled Ice Cream Waffle Taco.
The PNE runs from Aug. 19 until Sept. 4. The fair will be closed on the Mondays of Aug. 21 and Aug. 28.
Rick Springfield, Mother Mother, ZZ Top and the Gipsy Kings are among concert highlights at this year’s fair. The 2017 Fair at the PNE entertainment lineup also includes Chicago, Huey Lewis and the News, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, The Doobie Brothers, the B-52s, Colin James, High Valley, Billy Currington and a two-night iHeartRadio Beach Ball.
New to the PNE this year is a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit at the Garden Auditorium, featuring 5,000 square feet of hockey-related artifacts, photos, video and more.
Also new to the fair is a Northern Light Sky “electric experience” display (nightly at 10:30 p.m.), a Toytopia retro games and toys showcase in the Rollerland building, and Xtreme Bugs, described as “an outdoor imaginative immersive experience” featuring 10 giant animatronic models and more than 100 static creatures.
Attractions returning to the PNE this summer include Craft Beer Fest (now also featuring local wineries), the PNE Prize Home, Kaleidoscope on Parade, the PNE Donut Dash fun run, Kidz Discovery Farm, Farm Country, the BCAA ToonCity, a Learn to Fish at the Fair pond, Dueling Pianos at the Celebration Plaza beer garden, the Presidents Choice SuperDogs and the Unbelievable magic show (nightly at the Pacific Coliseum).
For concert dates and more details about this year’s PNE, visit pne.ca/thefair.