The Mother Road
Every once in a while….a travel blog is going to contain a tale of a unique event. Just a glimpse of a life really , more even a blink perhaps, but nonetheless just plain smiles and fun. In pursuit of something uniquely small town America, but really an example of that fine local flavor that you get to enjoy…by just looking around.
We present to you the town of El Reno, Oklahoma…….a proud community and home to the world’s largest onion burger. Yes you read that correctly.
We’d never heard of El Reno, Oklahoma but someone at worked mentioned to Dave that they were having their annual Burger Festival…..and being fans of local fests, we had to go check it out. El Reno is a town of 15,000 people about 40 miles west of Oklahoma City.
It so happens that this town, and dozens of others were located on the famous “Route 66.” Famous in American lore, the “Mother Road” was over 2400 miles long until the advent of the interstate highway system bypassed most of it.
During the Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s many people migrated west
350 pound bun
Good burger & good bun
from Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ending up in California along this historic highway Route 66. Often referred to as the Main Street of America, Route 66 has provided many iconic photos of early America offering a slower pace. Today many want to travel as much of this old highway as they can and if that is your goal you will find yourself driving through El Reno, Oklahoma.
We decided it might be a good idea to have breakfast before we enjoyed the festival so we looked up diners in El Reno and discovered Sid’s was the place to go. As it turns out the owner of Sid’s cooked the burgers at the first burger festival 27 years ago. Sadly they decided to stop serving breakfast at 10am today….because…..ah …of course! It is burger day. So yes, you guessed it we split a burger and ate a half basket of fries for breakfast. Boy are we glad we ordered the half basket of fries. What a meal! Yes we ordered the world famous fried onion burger.
Seems in the depression of the 1930’s led to putting a fair amount
Hit the Road
Main Street of America
of onions on a burger to make it larger in appearance, making folks think they were getting more of a meal. The onion burger carved out its fans in this part of the country, and the local slant on the iconic burger is a favorite. And now……. we were to witness the El Reno Fried Onion Burger Day, where a 350 lbs. bun teams up with 800 lbs. of hamburger to provide a seriously-large burger to anyone willing to endulge. Nope…that wasn’t a misprint.
Admittedly, it was a bit mesmorizing to lay your eyes on that much hamburger being grilled by the local fire department. The chief of the department is also the lead burger man on this day and has been doing this more than a few years, judging by his adeptness and skill. The event had a couple of announcers who were literally doing the play by play of the event, one even proudly proclaiming, “ we have flippage!” when the well-orchestrated team flipped the burger after using power drills to secure the bolts on the top grill while the burger was being flipped.
After copious amounts of pickles and mustard were
El Reno, Oklahoma
tossed on, the upper half of the bun was placed and then a device resembling an extremely large bulb planter would divide up the burger to more individual servings. And of course we forgot to mention that not one but two burger-eating contests were taking place. One for selected kids and one for adults. Hard to imagine this festival without such an event.
The whole downtown area was cordoned off, providing all sorts of goods and entertainment for all ages. Lots of classic automobiles and live music on the main stage and a warm spring day made for a picturesque day in middle-America. El Reno, Oklahoma has been hosting this festival since 1988. The first year 1300 burgers were sold and about 8,000 people attended. Now 20+ years later there are 25,000 in attendance from around the world.
As a footnote, the guy that won the contest was spotted later …uh…..unable to keep them down. Most likely the result of ingesting some eight burgers in less than 10 minutes. Gluttony will do that to you.......
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