What’s all the fuss surrounding fried dough topped with globs of gooey confection?
Well, you’d have to ask someone who has worked alongside a 30-year veteran of the elephant ear business. She can tell you why they’re so wildly popular, especially during today’s opening of the 98th Orangeburg County Fair. The fair runs through Sunday, Oct. 5, with gates opening today at 5 p.m.
While elephant ears haven’t been around as long as the animals themselves, fairgoers have come to view them as a staple food item that makes their menu complete.
Branchville resident Traycie Brewer runs the day-to-day operations for Lordy’s Elephant Ears. Her friend, William E. “Bill” Lordy of Branchville, owns the business which is marking its 30th year at the Orangeburg County Fair this year.
“I’ve been working with him for almost 20 years. His elephant ears are a yeast-raised donut dough, and they’re served hot and fresh. I don’t know what it is, but people just want their ears,” said Brewer, smiling.
“Bill had a little old joint when he first came here, but his operation has grown. He’s got two trailers now that hook together. It takes two to produce and sell, and he’s excited about being here. With the economy and the weather, we’re hoping it’ll be very successful,” Brewer said.
Lordy has been to other fairs, including the York Interstate Fair in York, Pa.; the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia and the Coastal Carolina Fair in Ladson. Brewer said people converge upon the stand for the sweet, crispy treat in the rain or sunshine, even without even knowing what an elephant ear actually is.
“We just came from up North in York and they don’t know what they are. Bill’s been there 20 years, and they still don’t know. It’s funnel cake country up there,” said Brewer, who whips up the ears as fast as she can.
“It’s yeast-raised dough, so it takes about an hour to get from the mixer to where it’s ready to sell. I then fry them up 30 seconds on each side and top them with different things like cinnamon and sugar, powdered sugar, apple and cinnamon, cherries, fudge and Bavarian creme and chocolate,” she said.
Brewer feels a sense of accomplishment in being able to keep customers coming back for a quality product she makes with pride.
“Even in the rain, people at the Orangeburg County Fair and the State Fair come out to buy food. They’re really good about that. We’ve played fairs up North, and the rain could just kill you. It makes it worthwhile when you can come to a small town fair and get the support that we get.
“I’ve had folks come up and want to freeze them. One person asked, ‘Can I get six to put in my freezer?’ I can only make 30 at a time, and I started to put a limit to two per customer!” she said, laughing.
Brewer said product demand makes her job fun and exciting, plus “I have a good support staff and people around me that make it easier. The Orangeburg Fair and the South Carolina State Fair have always been home to us.”
Rides, a petting zoo, arts and crafts and line dancing are among the features that await fairgoers this year, but Brewer said she is pretty sure people won’t forget to treat themselves to good, old-fashioned carnival food.
“I’m just anticipating that we’ll still get the same support we’ve had. I’ve had some of my best years at this fair,” she said.