Wayne high school graduate Leslie Soukup has operated two concession
stands at the Iowa State Fair for the past five years. This August, the fair board presented her with a challenge she couldn’t refuse. In May, she received a letter announcing the inception of the New Food Contest. Then she went to
“In the Po Boy stand,” Soukup explains, “we already sold shrimp and beef
sandwiches. I wanted to offer something on a stick. I decided to go with
shrimp and started brainstorming, experimenting.”
“A lot didn’t work,” her mother, Nancy Jones, adds.
After the rough draft stage, Soukup narrowed it down to a meaty piece
of shrimp and a special sauce. According to a fair press release, her work
“offers a new twist on a fair classic with two jumbo fresh shrimp dipped in
corndog batter, fried to golden perfection and topped with sweet jalapeno
They first sent her a letter announcing she had made the top 10. Then
Soukup had to fry her corndog and present it at the fair to 18 judges. The
judges picked her work number one. After that, it was advertised for sale
by the fair board and opened up to the People’s Choice Award. Seventy-five percent of fairgoers chose her shrimp corndog from the three finalists
initially picked by the judges. She received an official Iowa State Fair plaque
and bragging rights for the inaugural contest.
Soukup credits her fiancé, Jeff Bingham, with modifying the process
for mass-production. They worked long days, from 10 a.m. to midnight,
and depending on the evening’s entertainment, sometimes until two in the
morning. Other members of her team included her mom; her daughters Alex,
Elie Joe and Jolié; her nephew Will Jones; Kristen Kelly, Camy Christian,
Bailey Andrews and Makala Andrews.
“We had a really good crew and we never ran out of shrimp corndogs,”
Any lover of jalapeno-glazed shrimp dipped in batter could not complain.