Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

We’ve longbeen led to believe that we “can’t know the players without a program.” However, it’s generally agreed that they are needed for sports purists who want to identify all of the players, from the “stars to the scrubs.”


Dr. Don Newbury

At the State Fair of Texas in Dallas–where they feature three football games annually during the event’s three-week run–attendees gobbling foodstuff on the midway may need programs to know with specificity what’s going down their gullets.

Or, maybe legal briefs at the corn dog place might be most helpful in determining contents of whatever adorns sticks that have been popular there for the better part of a century. The masses, of course, won’t care as long as they think they’re putting away Fletcher’s corn dogs.

For many of us, a hot dog is a hot dog is a hot dog, ad infinitum. For political rallies and such where economies were stretched to the utmost, hot dogs “with all the trimmings” often were reason enough for folks to attend. (In many cases, “all the trimmings” included mustard and relish, with a splash of chili on rare occasions. Wieners were usually encased in “day-old” buns, and wrapped in cheapest napkins.)

The late Hardy Reed, a long-ago friend who was a self-taught chef in our hometown, often was engaged to serve “hot dogs by the tub” for large crowds in Brownwood.

Smiling, he offered a definition for the hot dogs he served. “They’re barely an excuse for jaws to be moving.”

It’s not a laughing matter in Dallas, however. The Fletcher family–credited with originating deep-fried corn dogs at the State Fair of Texas back in the 1940s–has arrived at “splitsville” over naming rights.

The trademark lawsuit filed by Fletcher’s “Original State Fair Corny Dogs LLC” alleges “willful infringement and unfair competition.”

Defendants are Victoria Warner Fletcher and her daughter, Jace Fletcher Christensen, as well as their company, “Fletcher-Warner Holdings, LLC.”

Details of the lawsuit boggle the mind. Suffice it to say, however, that when a product generates more than $150 million in sales since it was introduced is far more than “an excuse for jaws to be moving.”

Christiansen and her mother, “estranged members of the Fletcher family,” claim to have rights to using “Fletch” as a trademark name. A century ago, Christiansen’s great-grandfather Neil and his brother Carl were vaudeville performers. They were offered a State Fair food booth, and Neil’s “deep fry discovery” was off and running.

Many notables have offered long-heard “plugs” for the State Fair feature. They include Oprah Winfrey, Julia Child and Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet Union leader.

While Fletcher descendants ran the business for years, the trademark was eventually sold to Tyson Foods and Sara Lee Foods, a subsidiary. Earlier this year, however, all trademark rights were assigned back to the Fletchers.

Claiming that her new restaurant will feature original food recipes with artisan cheese, Christiansen promises a menu “devoid of preservatives.” With an opening coinciding with the dates of the 2019 State Fair, “Fletch’s” promises a menu that is “modern, hip and health-focused”…. on a stick.

Fair-goers, I’m thinking, will give little thought to litigation–midway-born or otherwise–as they traverse the grounds. For most, diets will be put “on hold,” with eyes usually darting to whatever offerings begin with “deep-fried.”

For massive appetites, new offerings this year will range in cost from $5 to $15, and big-eaters on the midway had best bring along a $100 bill if they want to consume many of the new items. They include Ruth’s stuffed taco cone, Fla’Mango tango, Fernie’s friend burnt-end burritos, Calypso Island shrimp bowl, big red chicken bread, peanut butter cup snookie, and Texas cream corn casserole fritters.

After all the food places have been frequented–and there are many–Alka-Seltzer booths should do well. There’s bound to be long lines of fair-goers who can’t believe they ate the whole thing.

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to:newbury@speakerdoc.com. Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.


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