DALLAS, Texas (KDAF) — Over the past 53 years, Fernie’s has been serving up the original funnel cake here at the state fair of Texas. Right now, they’re actually being featured on A&E’s Deep Fried Dynasty and we got into how they captured and deep-fried the hearts of everyone who walks in. 

“I remember when we first introduced funnel cakes and mother and I on the fryer,” co-creator of the original funnel cake maker at the State Fair of Texas Christi Erpillo said. “At that time, we didn’t trust anybody else with frying them. The first funnel cake was served right back there on that counter.”

According to the Fernie’s family, they were the original vendor to serve funnel cakes at the State Fair of Texas.

That was 53 years ago – and the family hasn’t stopped. Now, Fernie’s team, and a few other vendors, are subjects of A&E’s first season of their new show: Deep Fried Dynasty – showing us the ups — and downs of being a state fair vendor icon.

It’s a certain kind of crazy to be a fair concessionaire – there’s nothing else like it,” Erpillo said. “We basically have 300 hours to make our living for the year. It’s a struggle out here. We don’t eat right, sleep right, we don’t drink enough. It’s hot – it’s still 100 degrees in October here. It’s very physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. I think the show hit the highlights on all that.”

The show captures nightmare moments like…

“We had a bad mix from the factory so our funnel cake batter was no good – we had no funnel cake mix,” Christi remembered. “Johnna had to high tail it out of here to a retail store to get a new funnel cake mix. We had to unplug our fryers for the first time in 52 years, we could not sell a product we were famous for. Johnna was crying – she’s on camera saying `I can’t believe I’m crying over funnel cakes.’”

All while the Fernie team soaked in the loss of its coach and namesake…

Fernie was the face of Fernie’s Funnel Cakes for decades. She passed away in 2021.

“I think that Mother was a legend out here at the fair. A lot of people called her the queen of the State Fair of Texas. She’d sit at the table right there and hold court. They’d have their photo made with Mother.” 

During their first year since Fernie’s passing, fans were there for support.

“We had bouquets – huge bouquets and notes,” Christi said. “She made an impact on a lot of people. As a kid, you don’t think that your mom would have that kind of impact on people. But she did and it was amazing to see.”

Lending the family a welcomed distraction…

“The show was the God send that took off the sadness that could have been there,” Erpillo said. “There were still times when I’d look at the table and Mother wasn’t there. She may not be here physically, but she’s here in spirit. There were many times we felt her. When she was getting sick, she told one of her caretakers – ‘if you think I’m going anywhere, you better think again.’ That’s why we say Fernie isn’t going anywhere.”

Christi Erpillo, co-inventor of the original funnel cake, served CW33’s Landon Wexler one of their most requested items: the fried grilled cheese.

With a fire lit under them, the Fernie’s family served the folks at the fair their finest…

You can taste the golden fried goodness for yourself in late September when the state fair of Texas rolls around. You can also catch Christi and the Fernie’s Fam on A&E’s Deep Fried Dynasty.