One of the first sounds fairgoers hear coming through Gate 11 is the friendly twang of Al Almaguer, tempting them with a big ol' biscuit.
Almaguer perches next to a haystack outside the Amran Shiners tent, presses a microphone to his face and lovingly describes the fresh grub frying just over his shoulder.
“They're fresh eggs,” he says. “Real country eggs. We ain't got none of them powdered eggs.”
At 60, “Big Al” has long been a fixture outside the busy food tent, manning an intersection at the tip of the midway where first-timers pause and consider the eternal choice: corn dog or barbecue?
The patter goes nonstop. Even when you stop to ask him a question, he answers through the microphone. Nobody is safe at the Shriners tent, where others take over once Big Al's shift is through. A passing state trooper gets a not-so-gentle ribbing about his gut, which the Shriners take as an advertisement for their own food.
But Almaguer, who lives in Garner, seems to move easiest between a pitch for hot breakfast and commentary on passersby.
A pickup passes and catches his attention.
“We've got truck parking, but I don't do the windshields,” he says. “I don't paint ‘em and I don't do the tires.”
Business is down a bit this year, but you'll not hear Almaguer kick.
To hear him tell it, all the world needs to lick this recession is a big ol' biscuit.