Fried fair foods pump through the family bloodlines of Cindy Zaker.
It was 75 years ago that her grandfather, Lee Entsminger of Bradner, stirred up his first batch of fair
caramel corn. In the years that followed, his concession menu grew to include pull taffy, peanuts,
french waffles, caramel apples, snow cones, cotton candy and the now famous french fries.
"He was quite the entrepreneur," Zaker said of her grandfather.
Since that first batch of caramel corn, Entsminger passed on not only his lip-smacking recipes, but also
his love for serving up concessions to hungry fairgoers across the region. His daughter Mary, married
Frank Isch who followed in his frying footsteps – hence the well-known "Frank’s Fries"
concession trailers at local fairs and festivals.
And Frank passed on the deep-fried desire to his daughter, Cindy.
"I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl," Zaker said. "I was counting change when
I was 8 or 10."
And Zaker has continued the tasty tradition by adding two more generations to the business – her
children, Corey and Christina, and three grandchildren. Her husband, Ray, is the "fix it man"
for the concession trailers.
The business has grown to four "Frank’s Fries" trailers serving such deep-fried delicacies as
corn dogs, cheese-on-a-stick, and of course, french fries. Zaker has also expanded with three
"Cindy’s Concessions" trailers serving up sugar-soaked desserts such as elephant ears, funnel
cakes and french waffles.
Five of the family’s trailers are frying up food this week at the Wood County Fair. Decades of doling out
fries have earned the business several loyal customers who wouldn’t dream of leaving the fair without
devouring a tub of the steaming potato strips.
"I think Frank’s Fries is a household name in the summer," Zaker said. "I don’t think
anyone can get tired of our french fries."
"People say, ‘We tried to make these at home,’" but they just can’t seem to replicate Zaker’s
During an average Saturday or Sunday at the fair, Frank’s Fries goes through as many as 25 50-pound sacks
of potatoes. The best sales day peaked at 40 50-pound sacks being fried up and devoured. Some are doused
in vinegar, some in catsup, and others are drenched in chili and cheese.
As Zaker and her trailers traverse the region for summertime fairs and festivals, she has noticed some
tasty trends. While Wood County Fair visitors are big on french fries, the further east the venture, the
more popular her fried cheese becomes.
"The closer we get to Cedar Point," the more orders come in for cheese on a stick – with or
without marinara dipping sauce.
"The true cheese lover, I find, will not dip it," but will savor every gooey bite, she said.
From mid-April to mid-October, Zaker and her family can be found dipping items in the bubbling grease at
some fair or festival. The concession trailers they spend months in have taken on their own
personalities, earning names like "Bertha" or "Spud."
"They are like members of the family," she said.
When cold weather comes and the fairs fade, Zaker is ready to put the trailers to rest for another
"But in the spring, I’m ready to get them out again," she said. "I will continue this as
long as I can, and I think the next generations will take over then."
And no doubt, the next generation of fairgoers will line up for the same deep-fried delicacies.