A small crowd gathered around 9-year-old Joey Hernandez, watching his facial expressions intently and awaiting his next move. Bringing a chocolate-covered treat to his mouth, he grinned and closed his eyes.
Then he bit into his first scorpion.
Joey teased the shrieking crowd by taking small bites and finally swallowing the remaining piece, taking care to chew it thoroughly before swallowing it.
Joey’s father, Joe Hernandez, stood nearby, laughing and taking pictures.
“How does it taste?” he asked, offering his son a sip of his strawberry lemonade.
“Good,” Joey said enthusiastically.
As the Arizona State Fair opened Friday, vendors once again tried to outdo each other to produce the most unusual, exciting and fear-inducing food. Highlights from this year’s menu: deep-fried butter, kangaroo sausage and hamburgers with doughnuts for buns.
Joey had his scorpion at Chef Du’Jour, which also offered chocolate-covered crickets and mealworm caramel apples. Chef John Corey, who runs a restaurant in downtown Phoenix, said he sold 18,000 scorpions last year and hopes to sell as many as 30,000 this year.
What possesses a person to eat a scorpion? “It’s a challenge,” Corey said.
Not far away, Cole Adams was grilling alligator tail and alligator sausage at Jungle George Amusements, which also offered hamburgers made of llama and yak.
“You always want to look for something new in this business,” Adams said.
At J&L Concessions, many passersby cringed at the idea of deep-fried butter, a new item on this year’s menu. It joined staples such as deep-fried Snickers bars, Oreos, Twinkies and cookie dough.
Christine Fisher decided to try the Twinkie.
“I’m really curious,” she said. “The butter sounds really gross though.”
Donut Hamburgers, sandwiched between two halves of a Krispy Kreme, were in high demand at the Southwest Food and Beverage booth.
“Is it dessert? Is it lunch? You decide,” vendor Sam Haro said.
Janet Brombaugh said she was willing to buy one – later.
“I’m sure it will be a real heart attack on a bun, but it will be worth a try,” she said.
Fairgoer John Duffy said he chose the more “traditional” route, ordering deep-fried cheesecake on a stick, drizzled with chocolate syrup and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s a perennial favorite at the Fun Zone Food booth.
“Messy but delicious,” Duffy said, wiping his mouth with a napkin.