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The Hoosierist: What’s The Buzz?

Mosquito-related disease, fair-food calories, and the SausageFest’s name. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: Indiana seems like the mosquito capital of the world this time of year. Why isn’t malaria a thing here?
A: A combination of climate and old-school habitat destruction keeps this mosquito-borne tropical scourge at bay. “We don’t have the best conditions for a malaria hotbed,” says Bryan Price, entomology director at the Indiana State Department of Health. “The parasite does really well in hot, humid conditions, where the mosquito season lasts 365 days a year and the disease is constantly transmitted.” While Indiana winters put a crimp in the ailment, it wasn’t entirely unknown in these parts during pioneer days. A concerted effort to drain Hoosier swamps and wetlands during the 19th century, thus decimating the mosquito population, finally did it in. Today, there are still 15 to 20 malaria cases a year in Indiana, but they’re all from people who caught it in the tropics and brought it back.

Q: What’s the most unhealthy food item served at the Indiana State Fair?
A: The fair has dropped so many new calorie bombs on the Midway that sampling them has become a nauseating rite of passage, like getting violently ill on the Tilt-A-Whirl. Yet The Hoosierist was surprised to learn that relative newcomers such as the fried Snickers (444 calories, 29 grams of fat) and fried Twinkie (420 calories, 34 grams of fat) pale in comparison to more traditional offerings. For instance, the old-fashioned funnel cake packs a staggering 760 calories and 44 grams of fat, while the giant turkey leg boasts an astounding 1,136 calories and 54 grams of fat. If you want to eat something naughty at the fair without spiking your cholesterol count, your best bet is cotton candy. It’s just spun sugar, and (mostly) air, which means you can pound a portion that’s bigger than your Aunt Minnie’s bouffant and only take in 171 calories and zero fat.

Q: Are the folks who run the St. Thomas Aquinas SausageFest aware the name is a double entendre?
A: According to event chairman Brandon Thomas (also known as the Sausage King), the reasoning behind the name for this outdoor street party, which stages its 15th edition this month, is lost in the mists of time. But no one seems particularly disturbed by the fact that it’s a slang term describing a party where men massively outnumber women. “Nobody complains,” Thomas says. “Everybody’s on board. I think they see the humor in it.” It also doesn’t hurt that the moniker raises the event’s profile in the public mind. For the record, the SausageFest is not that kind of sausage fest. Thomas says attendance is quite evenly distributed between men and women.

Have Indiana-related questions? Send them to [email protected].

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