Cotton candy, corn dogs and funnel cake may be fair staples, but a long list of new foods debuts each year at the Arizona State Fair. This time around, three particular items are generating enough buzz and demand to rise to the top of the culinary crowd, says spokeswoman Kristi Walsh.

Deep-fried Watermelon on a Stick

$6 at Cardinali Woodfire Pizza (No. 1433) at the McDowell Road and 19th Avenue entrance

A cold wedge of seedless watermelon — on a stick — is lightly covered in a “secret batter” and flash-fried for all of about 20 seconds. Then it’s drizzled in strawberry syrup and dusted with powdered sugar.

“When you bite into it, you get that crispy, crunchy, almost cookie-like outer shell, then the cool piece of watermelon,” says vendor Anthony Cardinali, who developed the recipe for a recent watermelon festival.

The treat earned the title of No. 1 fair food at the Los Angeles County Fair and will be featured in December on the Travel Channel.

Maggot Melt Sandwich

$7 at Jungle George’s Exotic Meats and Bugs (No. 1404) on the Avenue of the Flags, by the grandstand

Think of it as a grilled cheese sandwich — with some crunch.

You’ve got your grilled hamburger bun. You’ve got your gooey American cheese. And then, there are the beetle larvae maggots.

“They’re sprinkled into the melted cheese. They’re quite crunchy, kind of like a Rice Krispy treat. It’s more cheese than maggots,” says Walsh.

Creator George Sandefur says the farm-raised maggots are dried in a convection oven and briefly fried before making it onto each sandwich. He expects to sell about 20,000 maggots by fair’s end.

“It’s been really fun to watch people dare each other to try it,” says Walsh. “They’ll video it and put it on Facebook or YouTube.”

Peanut Butter Pops

$5 for three pops at the Funnel Cakes & Deep-Fried Treats trailer (No. 704) at the north entrance, near Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum

Vendor Linda Pope combines creamy peanut butter with powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese to form the center of these dessert pops. A deep-fried sweet batter coats the outside.

“They come out warm, and they’re soft, with just a little crunch to it. They come with a side of chocolate sauce,” she says.

Response, she adds, has been “awesome”: “Anybody who likes peanut butter — they just love it.”

IF YOU GO: The fair opens at noon Wednesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 6 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix. Info is at (602) 252-6771 or

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or

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