Every state has signature fair food.
Montana loves deep-fried meatballs on a stick. Minnesota scarfs up hot chocolate chip cookies by the bucket. And Arkansas goes for something called Thanksgiving tacos (don’t ask).
Everybody knows Washington’s favorite fair food: Fisher fair scones.
Slathered with whipped butter and raspberry jam, they’ve earned a cult following that spans generations. Scone fans stand in long lines for a bag of the treats at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, which just wrapped up its 12-day run, and the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, which runs through Sept. 22.
More than 200,000 Fisher scones were sold at this year’s Monroe fair. And the scones’ parent company, Conifer Foods of Woodinville, expects to sell about 1.25 million scones at the Puyallup fair.
Statistically speaking, it’s not far-fetched to say that every man, woman and child who attend either state fair will pick up a fair scone.
“This is a huge wheat-growing, huge berry-growing and huge dairy state,” said Mike Maher, CEO and president of Conifer Foods. “It’s a really unique combination of what’s great about our state mixed into one item.”
The scones have been around since 1915. The Fisher family, promoting its flour mill in Seattle, sold them for a nickel apiece at the Puyallup Fair. These days, they go for $1.75 a scone and $18 for a baker’s dozen. Fisher’s scones were a hit — dispelling the notion that the English treats were hard, crumbly and dry. A tradition was born.
In 1977, the Fisher family, which had built a major media company that included KOMO-TV in Seattle, sold the flour mill and the fair scone recipe to Conifer Foods, which also manufactures Canterbury Naturals and Canterbury Organics. The scone tradition continued under the new owners.
A year later, in 1978, Maher got a job working in a Fisher Scones booth at the Portland Rose Festival. He spent the next three-plus decades working his way up the Conifer Foods ladder until Maher became CEO in 2011.
Fisher scones are made with natural ingredients from the Northwest. The company’s wheat comes from an alliance of 26 growers in Eastern Washington, while its butter is made by a Darigold co-op based in Kent.
Fisher’s raspberry jam — available at some Costco stores — is farmed by Columbia Empire Farms in Dundee, Oregon. Fisher adds its own twist to the jam: sugar, a tiny bit of preservative and pectin, to give it a fresher taste.
While some companies prefer to keep their secret to success under wraps, Conifer Foods has done the opposite. The company has been selling box mixes of its fair scones since 1989. The 18-ounce mix is available at grocery stores and online in three different flavors: original, cranberry orange and maple cinnamon.
Eben Elliott, events manager for the company, said the box mix is a fun way to get your fair scone fix at home. But he said he often hears fans say the scones taste better at the fair.
There’s a simple explanation for that.
“We make over 2 million scones a year,” Elliott said. “We’re just pretty dang good at baking scones. More than anything, we have bakers who have been with us for 20-plus years.”
The company also makes other baking mixes, such as cornbread, pancake, apple cake and shortcake.
Now, Conifer Foods is partnering to make Fair Scone Ice Cream. Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. blends chunks of scone and raspberry jam with vanilla ice cream. Find the ice cream at the Puyallup fair.
“They’ve done a really good job with the formulation work,” Maher said. “It’s a great combination of flavors. And I love the Washington connection. It’s a fun expansion for us.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.