Where we've been: Vose's Korndogs at the State Fair

Vose’s is ‘King of the Corn Dogs,’ staple of annual farm fest

Vose’s is the acknowledged “king of the corn dogs” at the State Fair. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Vose’s is the acknowledged “king of the corn dogs” at the State Fair. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

SPRINGFIELD — You can’t just have any corn dog at the Illinois State Fair.

The acknowledged “King of the Corn Dogs” at the Springfield fairgrounds is Vose’s, found on the main drag near the Grandstand, just to the right of where you come up from crossing under the horse track if you park in the main lot on the track infield. The State Journal-Register formally pronounced Vose’s king a decade ago, and it hasn’t lost the crown.

We made the mistake of just grabbing the first corn dog we came upon a year ago. It was good, to be sure, but the corn batter was sweet and the exterior crusty.

We made a point of trying Vose’s this year — they call them “korndogs” — and it didn’t disappoint. The cornmeal batter was corn-forward, not too sweet, and it had been perfectly cooked, so that, between the crispy brown exterior and the steamed hot dog within, the cooked batter was airy and light to the point of being almost creamy.

And it cost $3, same as it has for years. Complemented with a lemon shake-up — again, not too sweet, with a lemon section tossed in, natch — that was lunch for $6. Try beating that at Chicago’s Navy Pier.


Vose’s Korndogs are tops at the State Fair.

(Facebook/Vose’s Korndogs)

Ed Waldmire can still lay claim to bringing the corn dog to the Illinois State Fair in 1946, after he’d come across the delicacy in Oklahoma during World War II and an Army buddy had cracked the recipe for the best batter. Waldmire’s Army pals called them “crusty curs,” but Waldmire renamed them when he opened his own place, Cozy Dog, on the old Route 66 in Springfield. It’s moved since then, but is still well worth the visit at 2935 S. Sixth St. in Springfield. The Cozy Dog is a prototypical corn dog, and at $2.10 (at least as of last year) it even undercuts Vose’s for price, and the fries are perfect as well.

But at the State Fair, there’s no substitute for Vose’s. Bob Vose began as an iceman at the fair in the years after the war, and was so charmed by corn dogs that he bought a stand. He soon mastered the form and went on to claim the fairground crown. The Vose family carries on the business today.

The only food to rival Vose’s Korndogs on the grounds is at the 17th Street BBQ stand. The menu isn’t as extensive as at the flagship in Murphysboro or the larger spinoff in Marion off Interstate 57, but it’ll do and more as fair food.

It’s been a good year all around at the State Fair, which set new records for ticket sales for musical acts at the Grandstand (at $2.1 million and counting) and show attendance (at 59,000 and counting) with the final weekend still to go.

Two of the top headliners — at opposite poles of the musical spectrum — bring the fair to a close. Rapper Snoop Dogg plays the Grandstand Friday at 8 p.m., and country singer Reba McEntire brings the fair to a climax at 8 p.m. Sunday.