Think State Fair, think fried

Have you ever heard of Chicken Fried Cactus Bites?

If they win Monday's Eighth Annual Big Tex Choice Awards, you might find yourself lining up with hordes of fairgoers to sample them at this year's State Fair of Texas. Along with other entries like Deep Fried Jambalaya and Fried Pork Wing, these creations have helped brand the State Fair a celebration of all things fried.

Described as "hand-picked prickly pear cactus pads" that include a slice of chicken, the treats are deep-fried and served with a jalapeño ranch and sweet nectar dipping sauce.

"It tastes like fried okra," said Butch Benavides. "I'm thinking fried cactus has a good shot. It's different and it tastes good. And the sauce really makes it. I think that's the key."

But Benavides, 66, of DeSoto, said some friends and family think his other entry, which follows the motto that you can never have enough bacon, could also win. Dubbed the "Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll," it is pretty much what you would expect -- a cinnamon roll wrapped in pancake batter, rolled in bacon crumbles, then fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

"It's like breakfast on a stick," said Benavides.

Another contestant, Nick Bert, said his concoction, "Fried Mexican Fire Crackers," is like sampling a Texas staple. It includes spicy chicken, cheese and jalapeño wrapped in masa dough that's deep-fried and served with a spicy sauce.

"I really just try to keep it simple," said Bert, whose grandfather started working at the fair in 1917. "This is kind of like fried Tex-Mex. This is Texas. Who doesn't like Tex-Mex?"

Bert, 49, works most of the year as a Dallas County sheriff's deputy and lives in Anna. He uses all his vacation to work at the fair and said winning the contest can be a boon for business. He has previously won for Texas Fried Frito Pie.

Yet he's dismayed that another creation, Southern Fried Bacon Ranch, didn't get picked for Monday's contest. He's still toying with selling it at this year's fair. "I think it will sell." Bert said. "It's just what it sounds like, ranch dressing deep-fried."

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna