By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
If there’s one place dessert is acceptable at 7:30 a.m., it’s the Four State Farm Show. If it’s a Pineapple Whip, that is.
“The first thing I was told to do when I got to the Farm Show was get a Pineapple Whip,” said Shandra Stebbins on Friday on her way back to the Via Christi Hospital outreach booth with co-worker Mary Reif.
Both women had just purchased cups of the cold, sweet, sherbet-like frozen confection that has been a staple of the Four State Farm Show for 28 years. It was shortly after 9 a.m. and the mercury was rising.
“It’s as delicious and cold as people told me it was,” Stebbins said. “And no, there’s no such thing as too early for it.”
Manning the iconic, hula girl-topped Pineapple Whip booth was Mike Fortner, whose father, Dan Fortner, invented the treat 35 years ago in Springfield, Mo.
“We opened at 7:30 this morning and within a few minutes customers were lining up,” Mike Fortner said. “We’ll serve a couple of thousand through Sunday.”
The business got its start when Fortner’s father, now 82, perfected his recipe in the 1970s. Mike Fortner’s business partner is his brother, Chris Fortner.
“He had one booth at the Springfield fair, and it was very successful,” Mike Fortner said of his father. “Then we started hearing people say, ‘We wish you were open more than 10 days,’ so now we have three locations in parking lots throughout Springfield, from the first of April to mid-September, and of course, we’re always here.”
They also expanded their product line to include peach mango, strawberry kiwi, tropical orange and natural grape, but it’s a mystery as to which flavor will be where.
“We rotate them, and we keep people in the loop on social media,” the younger Fortner said. “We post stuff on Facebook and Twitter, which I guess is pretty hip for a 60-year-old.”
Those in this area hoping to try the new flavors will have to plan a trip to Springfield, however.
“We only do pineapple here at the Farm Show,” Mike Fortner said. “It’s what we’re known for.”