From homegrown food to handcrafted furniture, fairgoers can discover Oklahoma’s distinct flavors and unique offerings in a new space at the Oklahoma State Fair in 2017.
The Made in Oklahoma Store’s new fairgrounds venue nearly triples its footprint from last year. That means more Oklahoma-grown and -made offerings will be available for those who visit the Oklahoma State Fair in September.
“We’re pretty excited about having this addition,” says Julie Sears, coordinator for Made in Oklahoma, a program of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. “We are hoping it will eventually be one of the go-to destinations out there at the Oklahoma State Fair.”
The store’s more than 50 vendors will occupy over 2,000 square feet of space in the new Bennett Event Center, a massive complex that opened on the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City in January 2017. The Made in Oklahoma Store first debuted at the fair in 2014 with 300 square feet. More vendors and increased customer demand has prompted it to grow since.
“People are looking to buy local, so this just helps the local economy,” Sears says.
Homegrown in Oklahoma
The Made in Oklahoma program started in the late 1980s, long before the buy-local movement went viral. This program from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has grown and evolved over the decades, but still maintains its mission to assist ag companies that grow, process or manufacture their products in the state.
“Right now, there are close to 400 agricultural companies in the program,” Sears says. “The majority of our membership is food companies, but we have some nonfood manufacturers, such as makers of soy candles, furniture and soaps – anything that ties into and celebrates Oklahoma and Made in Oklahoma products.”
Food demonstrations and sampling will expand in the new store space at the fair. This gives vendors the extra exposure to potentially boost sales and sometimes tap new markets. As a result of their state fair presence, some vendors have entered new retail locations or provided unique, local gifts for corporations, Sears says.
“Fairgoers have been really excited,” she adds. “We’ve even had people comment and say they now look forward to seeing the store each year and that it’s good to find so many Made in Oklahoma products all in one place.”
Oklahoma-made salsas, barbecue sauces, pickles, jams and jellies remain popular staples among the food vendors and consumers, she says. Popcorn, dip mixes, seasonings and chocolate attract customers as well.
Tulsa Touts Oklahoma Products, Too
About 100 miles northeast and just four days after the Oklahoma State Fair, visitors to the Tulsa State Fair also can shop a Made in Oklahoma exhibit area. The exhibit showcases more than 30 vendors in a large space that allows Oklahoma processors and manufacturers to spread out as needed, whether for furniture displays or sauce samplings. The Made in Oklahoma program has secured exhibit space at the Tulsa State Fair for more than 20 years, Sears estimates.
Both fairs offer Made in Oklahoma program members valuable opportunities to reach Oklahoma consumers. “We want to continue to foster relationships with the Oklahoma State Fair and Tulsa State Fair to help promote Made in Oklahoma products in any way that we can,” Sears says.
Products You Can Find in the Made in Oklahoma Store
Here are just a few of many products you can find in the Made in Oklahoma Store at the state fairs:Southern Okie: Southern Okie gourmet spreads are made with high-quality fruits and fresh, gourmet spices for a delicious, homemade taste.
Bedré Chocolates: Bedré Chocolates is known for its rich, decadent potato crisps covered in the highest-quality dark or milk chocolate. An Oklahoma favorite, Bedré is nationally recognized as a luxury chocolate brand.
Griffin’s Food Company: Family-owned and -operated Griffin Food Company, which is based in Muskogee, is a manufacturer and wholesaler of tasty mustard, peanut butter, syrups, baking products, jelly, preserves and more. The company was founded by two brothers in the early 1900s.
Gigi’s Gourmet Goodies: Jellies made by Gigi’s Gourmet Goodies are sure to liven up crackers, toast, yogurt and more with a fresh, delicious, country taste. These jellies are hand-crafted in small batches, using produce grown in Oklahoma.
Hefner’s Galimaro Authentic Argentine Sauce: Galimaro Authentic Argentine Sauce is a specialty product fashioned after a traditional sauce used by Argentine Gauchos for centuries. The recipe was developed by an Oklahoman family that has been making the delicious sauce for more than 30 years.