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The Herald & Review taste-testers sample food at Decatur Celebration on Friday. The festival opened Friday evening. 

DECATUR — Even if the Decatur Celebration has been around for 34 years, organizers always find some new food to eat. 

This year's choices did not disappoint.

Festival-goers should be able to find a new favorite, from fried foods like cheese curds to healthy turkey burgers. 

The Herald & Review once again enlisted a panel of taste-testers to sample goods Friday night. 

They included representatives from the advertising department, Tanya Watkins and Jeff Shaw; Vice President of Sales & General Manager Alexander Gould; new reporter Garrett Karsten; and customer service representative Meagan Williams. 

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Gage Pichon, of Gill Street Eats, serves food during Decatur Celebration on Friday. 

The basic BLT by Gill Street Eatz was a hands-down favorite. "It was not just a BLT," Shaw said. 

"It was the spicy sauce that they had," Williams said. 

The bread added to the appeal. "It was food that was good for a fair, but you could eat it at a restaurant," Gould said.

Each had their own second favorite. Twisted tacos made with lobster had its appeal for some, but not for others. 

Cannoli were the only new sweet treat offered this year, but that didn't matter to the tasters. The BLT and cannoli were served from the same vendor. "You could get dinner and dessert in the same place," Gould said. 

Here are the new foods we tried. 

Twisted tacos 

WHERE: Twisted Tacos on Franklin Street, north of William Street

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Lobster and chicken tacos from the Twisted Tacos at Decatur Celebration are shown. 

COST: $12 

THE FOOD: They serve craft tacos with various flavors, including buffalo, chicken/bacon/ranch. According to Milberg, craft tacos are more Americanized tacos versus street tacos because they are made with a flour soft shell. The cook can also use the different meats and flavors to change the appeal. 

Gourmet popcorn

WHERE: Combat Kettle Corn on South Park Street, west of Franklin Street

COST: $5 fruit drink; $10 bag of popcorn

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Kettle corn awaits purchase at Combat Kettle Corn on South Park Street.

THE FOOD: Owner Adam Randolph is an Air Force veteran who began making his gourmet popcorn at festivals after he retired from the service. He now lives near Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis.

The taste testers enjoyed the popcorn and the variety of flavors. The Tutti Frutti encouraged a lively discussion. "We all had different thoughts on what it would taste like," Gould said. 

"Like Fruity Pebbles," Watkins said. 

Beer-battered Wisconsin cheese curds 

WHERE: Food Baby on William Street, east of Franklin Street

COST: $6 for small; $10 for large

THE FOOD: The bite-sized pieces of fried cheese comes with a homemade ranch dressing. "It taste like a grilled-cheese sandwich," Watkins said. 

Chris Bennett and Jenny Binger have been selling the Wisconsin cheese treats for about five years at various festivals, but this is their first time at the Celebration. 

BLTS, cannoli and brisket

WHERE: Gill Street Eatz on Franklin Street, north of William Street

COST: $8 BLT; $4 cannoli

THE FOOD: The vendor is new to the Decatur Celebration as well as the festival circuit. They have been serving different dishes from their food truck for only six weeks. Celebration organizers helped craft their menu to give a variety of vendors. The suggestions worked. The BLT was a favorite among the taste testers. "The mayo was nice and spicy," Watkins said.

The cannoli was a close second. "It was a mess," Williams said.

"But I loved it," Gould said.

Turkey burgers

WHERE: The Turkey Man on North Park Street, east of Water Street 

COST: $5

THE FOOD: Von Thomas makes his own creamy sauce made with is own secret spices. He also has a unique seasoning he adds to the lean burgers while they are grilling. The burger is served with or without onions. 

Chicken fingers and wings

WHERE: Coleman Concessions on South Park Street, east of Water Street

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Alexander Gould, vice president of sales and general manager for the Herald & Review, tries one of Coleman's Cozy Dogs BBQ wings at Decatur Celebration on Friday. 

COST: $8

THE FOOD: Although they are not new to the Decatur Celebration, Coleman concessions have brought a new product, chicken wings or chicken fingers. In the past they served hot dogs. 

The wings were loaded with sauce, no matter the choice. The tasters tried barbecue and garlic Parmesan. Each wing needed at least two napkins. 


Gallery: A look back at Decatur Celebration through the years🎵🎈

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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