The State Fair Funnel Cake Queen, Wanda 'Fernie' Winter, Dies at 95

The funnel cake made its way to the State Fair via Wanda 'Fernie' Winter in the '80s.
The funnel cake made its way to the State Fair via Wanda 'Fernie' Winter in the '80s. State Fair of Texas
If there was a queen of The State Fair of Texas, it was Wanda 'Fernie' Winter. She held court at The Dock, her domain at the fairgrounds, after bringing funnel cakes to the yearly event in the 1980s.  On Sunday, Winter's family announced that she died over the weekend at the age of 95.

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved mother and treasured Mimi, Wanda ‘Fernie’ Winter. She was a light in this world and we will continue to carry her flame within us," read a statement from her family on Facebook.

Winter was a fixture at the fair for nearly 40 years. She first grabbed fair goers’ attention with the funnel cake, a fried pancake dough creation covered with powdered sugar. It has become a classic right up there with Fletcher's Corny Dogs, Smokey John's Turkey Legs and cotton candy. Winter's funnel cakes have been such a big deal that she had a chance to hang out with some pretty big names including FOX 4's Clarice Tinsley, WFAA's Pete Delkus and she even held court with the queen of daytime talk, Oprah Winfrey.

click to enlarge Winter, center, with her State Fair crew surrounding her. - THE FAMILY OF FERNIE WINTER
Winter, center, with her State Fair crew surrounding her.
The Family of Fernie Winter
After Winter got her concession stand going the business became a family affair. Her four daughters began helping her run the business. It's where her grandson Johnathan McKee got his start just weeks old on his mother Johnna's hip. He now helps his mother and his aunt run the family business every year.

"She was more than a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother to her immediate family, she was that to everyone," says McKee about what his grandmother meant to the many who work with them.

The proof of this statement is validated by how many employees return to the funnel cake concession stand year after year, many of whom have become like extended family. "She kept us in check while teaching us how to be our best self," McKee says.

At the last fair she attended in 2019, her family made her proud by once again becoming a finalist for the Big Tex Choice Award, a fried-food competition the family has won many times.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the fair hosted a drive-thru event, so the family didn't have long lines of patrons waiting to get into the dock for a funnel cake (or two or three) and the chance at another deep-fried Big Tex Choice Award. The fair is returning this year, but sadly without its queen.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the State Fair Youth Livestock Auction
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