Some food, some drink.
Local Cuisine and Small Town Family Fun: The 2011 Victoria Kansas Herzogfest.
You can go to just about any local fair and get plenty of fried sugary, greasy goodness, but there aren't too many community events that offer fair food that has its roots firmly planted in Volga German tradition. The Victoria, Kansas Herzogfest is one of those venues; and I'll never pass up a family-friendly opportunity to stuff my face with goodies like galuskies, bratwurst, bierocks, and kuchen (and if you don't know what most of those are, then you better keep reading).
For the last couple of years, our family has enjoyed attending the 29th annual Herzogfest just down the road from HaysUSA in Victoria, Kansas. If you're wondering (I'm sure you are), the "Herzogfest" takes its moniker from the original name of this town which is home to one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. Victoria is a small town to be sure, but it's huge where Volga German heritage is concerned, and the kind of food that's served at the 'fest reflects that. And while you can most certainly find a funnel cake and a bevy of assorted fried fare, the locals that set up stands have some real food gems under their tents. Of course, my family's all here for the bingo, the kids' tractor pull, and to see how my Father-in-Law's vintage GTO fares in the rod and custom show; but we always stay for the food. I'm only one dude, and I can't possibly eat the whole fair; but for you good reader, I visited four venues and stuffed myself with as much food as humanly possible so that when you happen to make it over our way next summer, you'll know what to expect.
- Stand 1: My Mrs. was craving potatoes, so I picked up some fresh-cut French fries from Mid-State Cookers, which I understand is just down the road from us in Wilson, KS. The food at this stand was as close as I got to proper "fair fare", but I gotta say that what they got going on seemed to be a cut above. Mid-State served some far out stuff like fried alligator on a stick and the obligatory fried Twinkie, and their "Gator Tater" kettle chips looked phenomenal; but my wife wanted fries, so fries it is. You gotta wait a little while for these (hey, they're fresh-cut), but man it was totally worth it. They come hot and direct from the fryer, and there are plenty of seasoning choices available to self-shake on upon receipt (I went with garlic salt).
- Stand 2: It'd been so long since I'd had a slaw-topped or "Carolina-style" pulled pork sandwich, that I couldn't resist what Terry's Backyard BBQ was serving up. Terry's been doing event catering around these parts long enough that I think people generally know they're in for some good eatin' if they see that bright-blue 'que parked in the vicinity. My sandwich was generously filled, and sauced enough so as to almost hold all its contents on the bun (but you should probably expect to pick up a fork and a stack of extra napkins just to be safe).
- Stand 3: St. Boniface Church was selling cinnamon rolls, chicken and noodles, and cabbage rolls which are known as "kalushka", "kalushkies", "galuskies", "galushkys", "piggies", "pigs in a blanket" and a few dozen other names around here. I hadn't had this particular local treat in at least a year, and I never seem to get around to making them, so I figured it was time to get reacquainted. These were really top-notch as far as cabbage rolls go, and had I not been trying to sample as much as humanly possible, I think I woulda had two. My galusky was plenty big, and perfectly seasoned. Highly recommended!
- Stand 4: St. Fidelis Church had people flocking to their tent for the noodles and beans as well the potatoes and dumplings (y'all starting to see a common theme in Volga German cuisine?), but this year I was craving sweet, so I went for the kuchen (pronounced something like "koog-en"). The always popular schwartzbeeren variety sold out by the time I got there, so I went for a rhubarb strawberry slice instead. That's probably another recipe that I'm going to have to add to the 'to make' list.
By now, those of you in the know are probably wondering where the hell the bierocks are. Rest assured, they are prevalent and plentiful at Herzogfest, but that's something I make at home at least a couple of times a year, so I didn't figure there was any point in filling myself up with stuff I make regularly anyway. Anyhow, if you can't be bothered to DIY, rest assured you can buy 'em by the dozen to take home, freeze, and consume at your leisure.
If you're looking for laid-back family fun in Northwest Kansas, you really can't go wrong at Herzogfest. There's a little something for everyone, and you'll most definitely leave the festivities satiated. We easily look forward to Herzogfest as much as we do the two Oktoberfests in Hays, and if you're within driving distance, have a penchant for classic cars, excellent local food, and could do with beer or two to wash it down, then you most certainly can't go wrong at Herzogfest in Victoria, KS.