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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Armando Barreto hands a basket of curly fries to Austin Harvey at the Jackson County Fair Tuesday.

Krazy for Kurlies: crowd favorite returns to Jackson County Fair

Hot, greasy, curly and piping hot out of the fryer, Southern Oregon Food & Beverage’s Fresh Giant Kurly Fries have been pleasing crowds for nearly three dozen years at the Jackson County Fair.

A single $8 order gets you two pounds of fries, freshly curled and cooked to a golden crisp.

“It’s a staple,” cook Armando Barreto said. “It’s almost like a pastime: You come to the fair, and you come over and get our curly fries.”

Less than 24 hours before the start of the annual five-day fair, The Expo was bustling Tuesday afternoon as vendors, workers and cooks set up for five sweltering days of fun.

Mechanics tinkered with the carnival rides, 4-H and FFA kids showed off their animals, and early fair visitors wandered the grounds, many of them making their way to the Fresh Giant Kurly Fries stand.

“They’re the best curly fries in the world — they’re just delicious,” said Sharon Schauffler, who filled up dipping containers with ketchup and added a little extra salt to her basket before walking over to her group of family and friends.

When Schauffler set down the fries, adults and young children immediately began devouring the heaping batch.

“This is the only time we eat them, so even though they are $8, it’s worth it since they’re just so good and there’s so much to share,” Schauffler said. “This is already our second order of the day.”

The fair is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today through Saturday, till 7 p.m. Sunday, at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Tickets are $12 for those age 13 to 61; $6 for those age 62-74; and free for kids 12 and under and seniors 75 and older. Admission is free on Sunday for all, and parking is free every day. Arm bands for carnival rides are $35.

Food stands at the fair serve an abundance of carnival classics, including hand-dipped corn dogs, cotton candy, strawberry lemonade, funnel cakes and ice cream. The Kurly Fries have been around for 32 years, said Southern Oregon Food & Beverage owner and operator Daryl Whicheloe.

Whicheloe said his company uses more than 10,000 pounds of potatoes during the fair each year.

“We love it here, that’s why we’ve come back for so long,” he said. “People come to the fair to find us, and share this with their families.”

Tuesday afternoon, Barreto and his team hardly stopped serving customers. Barreto grabbed potatoes one at a time, drilled them into the classic curled pieces and dropped them by the handful into the sizzling fryer.

“It’s pretty simple now,” he said. “A couple of years ago we had to curl the fries by hand, and this is way better.”

Demonstrating his technique, Barreto flipped each two-pound helping straight from the fryer to the serving dish without dropping one, and passed every mouth-watering order off to customers with a smile.

Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Morgan Theophil at mtheophil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter @morgan_theophil.

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