Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s here: follow your nose to funnel cake bliss

By Billy Davis

If you’re still funnel cake-less after 11 years of SpringFest, then you’re missing out. Big time.

Here’s some helpful advice for that first funnel cake. They’re best eaten when they’re hot, so hot that your fingertips burn but you’re still trying to pull off that first bite while you’re saying, “Ow-ow-ow.”

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It’s best to share the funnel cake with somebody else. Don’t ask why, it just is, because it’s a special once-a-year memory, like Christmas morning and New Year’s Eve.  

It’s also best to let somebody else hand over four SpringFest tickets for the funnel cake, which makes it even more delightful because you’re eating something that’s so good it’s got to be bad for you, and you’re doing it with somebody else’s money.

Another tip is to make sure you ask for powdered sugar. Without it, it’s like eating a homemade cathead biscuit without a slab of butter. It’s just wrong. Plain wrong.

The parishioners from St. Mary’s Catholic Church expect to cook and serve more than 1,000 funnel cakes today and Saturday at SpringFest, said Mills Haire, who will oversee the cooking.

SpringFest marks the largest yearly fund-raiser for the men’s and women’s organizations at the Batesville church, he said.  

Knights of Columbus and the ladies association expect to raise as much as $8,000 from funnel cakes, soft drinks, and snacks such as corn dogs and nachos, said Haire.

Batesville Main Street, which organizes SpringFest, receives 10 percent of all proceeds.

After expenses, the men and women of St. Mary’s split the profit, which pays for college scholarships, charity work, an Easter egg hunt, and buys food for Sunday brunches, Haire said.

And it’s a hard way to make a dollar.

“It’s a lot of hard work. It keeps you going,” said Mary Troxler, who brought the idea of funnel cakes to St. Mary’s 20 years ago, when SpringFest was still known as BBQ on the Square.

When BBQ on the Square grew into SpringFest, the crowds did, too. When the Square is packed at nine o’clock Saturday night to enjoy the headliner, it’s not unusual to see a snaking line of people stretching from the St. Mary’s tent, all waiting their turn for a funnel cake.

The 2011 headliner is rookie country artist Justin Moore, whose cliché-soaked serenades to the country boy life are probably more recognizable than his name.

“Backwoods” climbed into the Top Ten last summer and “Small Town USA” made it to the Top 15 in 2009.

The playful tune “Back That Thing Up” isn’t what it sounds like, thankfully, though Moore’s music video has 1.7 million views on Youtube for six two-legged reasons.

If the crowds come and stay Saturday night, so will the funnel cake peddlers. “We’ll be open until the last person leaves,” said Haire. “That’s usually close to midnight.”

Haire said as many as 50 volunteers from St. Mary’s, and from St. John’s Catholic Church in Sardis, will work the tent over two days, rotating in shifts throughout the day Saturday.

The St. Mary’s ladies prepare the batter. They mix cold water with a pre-mixed batter that is bought in fifty-pound bags.

The batter is poured into a funnel cake ring, floating in peanut oil, with two people responsible for the pouring and two designated as the turners, said Jerry Troxler, who has been turning funnel cakes since the BBQ days.

“The funnel cake has got to be nice and circular, and the batter has to be even,” explained Troxler. “It takes some practice to get it right.”

It takes practice to eat it just right, too, which is why you go back for a second try.