While fried delights whether they be corn dogs, funnel cakes or something more exotic like alligator are a top draw at the Stanislaus County Fair, there is one item that might seem ordinary but is anything but: hamburgers made by the ladies of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.
These good old American burgers are elevated to legendary status by the Auxiliary come fair time with the addition of their "secret sauce" and special seasoning.
"People come from all over just to get our burgers," said Shonda Edgin. "When the fair opens, we'll have a line of people waiting all the time."
The secret sauce was created by a group of six Auxiliary members who spent a day in the kitchen coming up with the perfect dressing for a grilled hamburger. When the ladies found that perfect mix of ingredients, they wrote down the recipe and history was made. The sauce is an actual secret, only passed down to those Auxiliary members who make the 50 gallons of dressing needed each year.
"A lot of people try to copy our sauce, but they always get one thing wrong," said Edgin.
The Auxiliary grills up approximately 11,000 burgers during the fair's 10-day run, and has been doing so for 50 years. (The Auxiliary has been at the fair for 75 years, but the first 25 years they sold watermelon instead of hamburgers.)
Buying an Auxiliary burger is not only good for the taste buds, it also helps veterans and military families.
"[The proceeds] go to all the different programs we support — hospitalized vets, veteran families, unmet needs that helps returning soldiers," said Auxiliary President Gaylene Ramos. "The focus this year is homeless veterans, and we have a suicide awareness campaign."
The Auxiliary also sponsors the VFW National Home for Children campuses in California and Nevada, a place where struggling military and veteran families can live and find resources.
After picking up an Auxiliary burger, fair guests can continue to support veterans by visiting the VFW beer booth.
"It's our main fundraiser for the year," said VFW Commander Mike Seward.