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Snyder: Traveling Cream Puffs a huge hit in Kenosha
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Snyder: Traveling Cream Puffs a huge hit in Kenosha

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"Super excited. And super nervous.”

That’s how Tim Gill was feeling Monday when the Wisconsin State Fair Traveling Cream Puffs event started in the Festival Foods parking lot at 6000 31st St.

As the steady stream of cars came through, Gill was also super busy.

“We had over 1,500 pre-orders for the Kenosha site,” said Gill, co-director of Original Cream Puffs.

He showed up at 6:30 a.m. with a crew of 20 workers to set up tents and a payment system.

The drive-thru event was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. but opened two hours early to start filling advance orders.

“We have over 15,000 creams puffs with us,” Gill said, “and we expect to sell them all.”

That proved to be a safe prediction: By 10:10 a.m., the three-packs of cream puffs were sold out for people who hadn’t reserved in advance. Also available were State Fair Blue Ribbon Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

But Cream Puffs were the main attraction.

When asked why they were in line — four lanes of vehicles were funneled into two lines, in a scene straight out of O’Hare Airport, Lambeau Field or the Wisconsin State Fair — people yelled, “Cream puffs!” One woman told me she was there “picking up my excuse to not stay on my diet.” Another man, raising his voice to be heard across three lanes of cars, said, “I eat a cream puff every year at the State Fair, and I can’t break that streak now.”

Gill is thrilled to have at least somewhat of a summer Cream Puff season.

“We’re grateful to be out in public selling our Cream Puffs,” Gill said.

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During a typical Wisconsin State Fair, the Wisconsin Baker’s Association sells 375,000 to 400,000 of their most famous product, using that income to fund scholarships and other ventures.

More to come

If you missed out Monday, you can still get your State Fair Cream Puff fix.

You just have to take a short road trip.

The iconic pastries are part of the Fair Food Drive-Thru, operating Thursday through Sunday at State Fair Park.

The Drive-Thru, which started July 23 and runs through Aug. 16, offers food items from State Fair vendors.

The final stop on the 2.2-mile stretch is the Cream Puff booth.

The Cream Puff Drive-Thru is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. You can order in advance (always a good idea) on the State Fair website. (The rest of the Fair Food Drive-Thru opens at 4 p.m. Thursday and at 11 a.m. Friday-Sunday.)

Finally, some good news!

We’ve become accustomed to seeing a line of cars and a tent staffed by people wearing masks and thinking “COVID-19 testing site.”

What a relief to, instead, discover that team is handing out State Fair Cream Puffs and other fair food favorites.

“If you build it, they will come” proved to not only work for a baseball field in Iowa (in the movies, at least), but also for Cream Puffs in Kenosha.

On a humid Monday when news broke — unofficially — that the Big Ten football season would be canceled this year, waiting in line for some sweet, cool Cream Puffs doesn’t seem crazy at all. In fact, it might be the sanest reaction to this COVID-19 summer of 2020: You can take our State Fair, but you can’t take away our Cream Puffs!

What do you miss most with the Wisconsin State Fair canceled? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com or call her at 262-656-6271.

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