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Attractions, greasy eats still abound page 2
From a woodcarver with a chain saw to favorite foods and fun, the State Fair is alive in Caroline

 Ashley Davis, 8, cradles an Eastern king snake at the Virginia State Fair.
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Date published: 10/2/2012

By Rob Hedelt

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With the fair's existence up in the air for so long after bankruptcy, it's likely that some vendors or attractions went elsewhere.

But there are still plenty of shows, exhibits and attractions, and uniquely State Fair stuff like fried Oreos, prize cattle and huge pumpkins.

And there's plenty to occupy youngsters like the ones from Alexandria's Engleside Christian School I caught up with at a booth from our state's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

They had a blast getting a chance to hold a variety of snakes: corn, mole, king and rat.

"They're not slimy at all!" said one little lass, seemingly a bit disappointed that there wasn't some good gunk on the king snake she was handed.

Suzie Gilley, an education coordinator for DGIF, said the activity was designed to show fairgoers, especially young ones, that snakes aren't all dangerous.

"We've got 30-plus species of snakes in Virginia and only a few of those are poisonous," she said, noting that those that aren't venomous should be valued for their ability to control vermin and, in some cases, kill venomous snakes.

While the snakes in that booth didn't bite, something did in the Virginia State University booth where Brian Nerrie was holding forth.

When I walked in, the VSU aquaculture specialist was holding a mouse-sized prawn in his right hand, with one of the shrimp's long, slender claws clamped on his forearm to the point of drawing blood.

"It's not that bad," said Nerrie, who nevertheless relaxed a bit more when he plunked the grayish crustacean back into its oxygenated tank.

Nerrie said specialists at Virginia State have been working to help Virginia farmers--especially those transitioning from fading crops like tobacco--move to raising prawns in freshwater ponds.

He said they're a one-season crop, going in about May, fed "sinking catfish food" until October and then harvested with nets where the ponds are drained.

"At one two-acre pond, a farmer harvested 1,600 pounds of these prawns, selling them for $10 a pound," he said.

So what do these prawns taste like?

"Because they're raised in fresh water, they taste like whatever you cook them in," said Nerrie. "Put Old Bay in and they taste like shrimp. I cook them in butter and they taste like lobster--not always making it from the pan to the table."

http://statefairva.org/

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
Email: rhedelt@freelancestar.com


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