What do Minnesotans Call This Staple Fair Food on a Stick?

Introduction

Corn dogs are a classic American food consisting of a hot dog coated in a thick cornmeal batter and deep fried on a stick. They were likely invented sometime between the 1920s and 1940s by several different vendors who all had the idea to deep fry hot dogs on sticks around the same time.

While they are known as corn dogs throughout most of the United States, they actually have some amusing regional names. In Minnesota, corn dogs are affectionately called “Pronto Pups.” This section will explore the history and popularity of Pronto Pups in Minnesota as well as some of the other unique names for corn dogs across different states.

Corn Dogs in Minnesota

Corn dogs are an extremely popular food item at state fairs in Minnesota. However, Minnesotans actually have a unique name for corn dogs – they call them “Pronto Pups” (Big Dog Corndogs, BigDog Corndogs, Taulelle’s Jurassic Corn Dogs). The term “Pronto Pup” is ubiquitous at fairs and festivals across the state when referring to corn dogs. While corn dogs are found at state fairs all across the United States, Minnesotans have put their own spin on the name.

pronto pup stand at minnesota state fair

Pronto Pups

The most common name for corn dogs in Minnesota is ‘Pronto Pups’. This name originated from the Minnesota State Fair in 1947 when the fair’s longtime vendor, George and Jack Carden, introduced a new item called the ‘Pronto Pup’ (MPR News, 2016).

The Pronto Pup was one of the first corn dogs and was made by inserting a hot dog on a stick into a specially designed automatic deep fryer. The Pronto Pup was an immediate hit at the fair and became a signature food item (Minnesota State Fair, 2023).

The name ‘Pronto Pup’ was chosen because the automatic fryer could cook them quickly, making them fast food for fairgoers. The name also played on the popular hot dog terms like ‘pup’ and ‘frankfurter’ (MPR News, 2016).

Other Names

In Minnesota, the corn dog goes by several other less common names, including:

  • “Corn pup” – A pun on the name “Pronto Pup”
  • “Corn dog on a stick” – A literal description
  • “Battered sausage” – Referring to how the hot dog is battered and fried
  • “Corny dog” or “Corndog” – Variations on the corn dog name
  • “Fair fare” – Since it’s commonly eaten at fairs and festivals

While Pronto Pup is by far the most popular name in Minnesota, these other creative names are sometimes used, especially informally amongst friends.

Pronto Pup Popularity

long line for pronto pups at fair

Pronto Pups are one of the most popular foods at the Minnesota State Fair, with over 400,000 sold each year. They have been a staple food at the fair for over 70 years. According to the vendor Pronto Pup, they sell on average 40,000-50,000 Pronto Pups per day during the 12 days of the fair. In 2016, Pronto Pup set a new all-time sales record by selling 43,000 in just one day. The Pronto Pup booth sells around 100,000 more corn dogs than any other corn dog vendor at the fair (DiscovertheCities, 2022). Pronto Pups have become so ingrained in Minnesota State Fair culture that around 97% of fairgoers buy at least one over the course of their visit (GiveMeTheMike, 2023).

The famous Pronto Pup corn dog has achieved an almost cult-like following, with fairgoers lining up by the masses to get their hands on the deep fried staple. For many Minnesotans, no trip to the State Fair is complete without biting into the crisp outside and fluffy interior of this iconic hand-held treat.

Unique Pronto Pup Stands

Pronto Pups have been a staple food at the Minnesota State Fair for over 60 years. Some of the most popular stands known for serving up these battered hot dogs on a stick include:

LuLu’s Public House located on the corner of Dan Patch and Liggett is famous for topping their Pronto Pups with unique spices and toppings like Cajun seasoning and sauerkraut. Customers rave about the extra crunch from their light and airy batter.

pronto pup with unique toppings

The Pronto Pup stand located on Carnes Avenue by the International Bazaar has been run by the same family for over 50 years. Their classic Pronto Pup coated in a sweet corn batter is a must-try. They also offercheese-filled Pronto Pups for those looking for something extra indulgent.

Tom Thumb Donuts, situated on Randall Avenue, is best known for their mini donuts but also serves up Pronto Pups covered in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. The sweet toppings pair perfectly with the salty hot dog inside.

Pronto Pup Recipes

Pronto Pups have a distinctive crunchy exterior made from a special batter recipe. Two popular recipes from Minnesota vendors are:

Lunds & Byerlys shared their go-to DIY Pronto Pup recipe which uses their pancake mix and cornmeal to recreate the signature Pronto Pup crust. Their simple recipe only needs 4 ingredients to make the batter.

Mari Oskey, the creator of the original Pronto Pup, kept her batter recipe secret but some replicas like this copycat version use cornmeal, flour, eggs, beer and spices to try to mimic the Pronto Pup taste and texture.

Other Minnesota Fair Foods

While Pronto Pups may be the quintessential Minnesota State Fair food, there are many other popular treats served at the fair each year. Some other favorites include:

Sweet Martha’s Cookies (https://www.mnstatefair.org/new-this-year/food/) – These soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies have been a fair staple for decades. Fairgoers line up by the hundreds to get their hands on these warm, gooey cookies.

Cheese curds (https://www.visitsaintpaul.com/events-calendar/festivals/minnesota-state-fair/food/) – No trip to the fair is complete without an order of freshly fried cheese curds. They are a uniquely Minnesotan treat that fair vendors have perfected.

Beyond Pronto Pups and cookies, fairgoers can find everything from specialty sandwiches and pizza to unique fried foods and exotic meats. The variety of cuisines and dishes represent the diverse tastes and cultures of Minnesota.

Pronto Pups Across the US

pronto pup variations in other states

While the Pronto Pup was invented in Minnesota, similar corn dog variations using the Pronto Pup name have spread to other states over the years. According to the Wikipedia article on Pronto Pups, some of the other locations where you can find Pronto Pups include:

  • Oregon – Pronto Pup shops and carts can be found at fairs and festivals throughout Oregon.
  • California – Some concession stands at fairs in California sell Pronto Pups.
  • Wisconsin – Pronto Pups are sold at the Wisconsin State Fair by the same family that sells them in Minnesota.

So while the Pronto Pup traces its origins to Minnesota, variations using the same name can be found at state fairs, festivals, and concession stands throughout different parts of the western and midwestern United States.

Conclusion

Pronto Pups have a long and beloved history in Minnesota. Originating from a stand at the Minnesota State Fair in the late 1940s, Pronto Pups quickly became a sensation, spreading to fairs and festivals across the state. Their name was coined to differentiate them from regular corn dogs, and they remain a unique Minnesota staple to this day.

With their fluffy batter and filling of either pork or beef, Pronto Pups became a fairground favorite for Minnesotans and visitors alike. Several notable Pronto Pup stands emerged over the years, using secret family recipes to create their iconic fare. Pronto Pups also became ingrained into Minnesota’s cultural identity, representing summertime nostalgia and state pride.

While corn dogs can be found across the country, no place has quite embraced them like Minnesota has with Pronto Pups. From their beginnings at the State Fair until now, Pronto Pups have been a delicious symbol of Minnesota’ssummertime traditions for over 70 years, cementing their status as a cherished local specialty.

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