The hot dog on a stick is dipped in cornmeal batter, thrown in a deep fryer for a few minutes, and then emerges as one of the iconic symbols of the State Fair of Texas.
It is then passed on to the customer.
Pass the ketchup. Pass the mustard.
And pass the torch.
“I have been eating them all my life and I am not going to tell you how old I am,” laughs Suzanne Larsen. Her adult daughter Carly Hodges stands next to her. Both of them with Fletcher’s Corny Dogs in their hands.
“I have to be at least the 3rd generation corny dog eater,” said Carly.
A short time later, Stacey Stiles helps dress up a corny dog with mustard for her young child. She, too, has passed down a love of Fletcher’s.
“My family came every year and now that I have my own family, we come every year,” she said.
There is another family passing the corny dog torch on to a younger generation this year. A family that has been coming to the fair for decades and has brought their children up with an appreciation for the fried fair delicacy.
That would be the Fletcher family themselves.
This year is the 75th anniversary of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs at the State Fair of Texas. And although the corny dogs will taste as great as always, something will be missing. Skip Fletcher Jr., the son of the Fletcher’s Corny Dogs founder, died in January. For nearly his entire life, the corny dog stands at the fair and the Fletcher’s name were his passion.
“It will be different because he was a very active part of it,” said his wife, Gigi Fletcher.
His father’s culinary creation on a stick debuted in 1942 when they cut the corny dogs up in small samples for fair goers to taste test the food no one had seen before. But it was Skip Jr. and his flamboyant style and flair that helped make Fletcher’s Corny Dogs an almost larger than life experience.
“He was the face of Fletcher’s. He had a passion about corny dogs and had such a connection with fans.”
At their home in Double Oak, Skip’s office is filled with an endless amount of State Fair and corny dog memorabilia including a photo of the stand where Gigi bought corny dogs as a girl long before she had any idea she would marry into the Fletcher’s family. But one memento in particular sticks out. In the corner sits a full-sized cutout of Skip Fletcher Jr. wearing a crown and a robe with the word’s “Corny Dog King” written on the back. Around his neck is a gold necklace of the “Mr. Corny” mascot he created.
Now the necklace hangs around Gigi’s neck.
“I had it made for him years ago when we were married and he was very proud of it,” said Gigi. “I think we are going to take turns with us in the family wearing it this year.”
Amid all the memories are several pictures of people like Oprah Winfrey, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ann Richards sharing a corny dog with Skip. But then there’s a picture of a 3-year-old Amber Fletcher and her brother Aaron sitting on their father’s corny dog stand. Now having grown up a member of corny dog royalty, she is ready to carry her father’s passion and the Fletcher’s name into the future.
Just like Skip Jr. did for his father.
“It is something that has always been in my blood,” said Amber. “I have looked forward to this my entire life.”
She admits it will be bittersweet. The dream of living out her father’s legacy after he is gone has presented itself although she wishes he were still here to do so himself.
“Every moment, I will be thinking about my dad.”
After hearing about Skip’s passing, Gigi said some fans wondered what would come of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs.
She certainly hopes the answer is another 75 years of families growing up with and passing down the food Fletcher’s made famous.
“Legacy is the perfect word,” she said. “That legacy is going to continue through our children.”