"Yes, you can call me princess," Hannah Tarr says.
That's not just any old regal designation. That's the Atlanta corn dog princess, to be exact. Tarr holds that unofficial title because you'll likely have to go through her to get your annual summer corn dog craving satisfied. That's because she's a gatekeeper to one of summer's most glorious fried festival foods.
Tarr entered the corn dog world at the age of 14 with the help of her aunt and uncle, who both own Jalapeno Corndog Concessions. They started selling sweet potato fries in the mid '90s, but quickly switched over to corn dogs and other various festival fare. Along with her aunt, Amanda, who calls herself the corn dog queen, she's traveled across the country during summers to work behind the scenes as a cashier, server, and corn dog chef for the retro-themed vendor.
For the better part of a decade, the recent Rhode Island School of Design graduate has perfected the art of the corn dog. But if you ask her about the title, odds are that she'll play down her role. She refuses to let it go to her head. "People have called me [the corn dog princess]," she says. "But I don't go around claiming that. I didn't write that on my LinkedIn account."
Tarr has helped her family bring corn dogs, funnel cakes, and other summer grub to men, women, and children attending the city's myriad festivals. The 23-year-old Atlantan has worked local events such as Candler Park Festival, Inman Park Festival, Dogwood Festival, and Corndogorama. But she says her most heroic corn dog exploits have regularly occurred across Bonnaroo's majestic fields, where Jalapeno Corndog Concessions sells thousands of battered franks each year.
"I cannot tell you how many festivals I've been at where there's been some drunk person or some really stoned person at Bonnaroo, and they're like, 'Corn dogs! Oh my god! You saved my night!'" she says. Her customers range from late-night stoners to indie rock performers, including Feist. "We sold her a corn dog — a veggie corn dog," she says.
So what's the secret? Here's how Tarr breaks it down: You place a wiener onto a wooden stick and dip the dog several times into a bucket of homemade corn mix, which is made plain or with jalapeños. The tricky part comes as soon as the batter solidifies. "Lift it out, spin it around, flip it up, and quickly put it in the fryer so it doesn't all drip off," she says. From there, Tarr carefully deep-fries a juicy dog, already teeming with mouthwatering deliciousness, into a battered spectacle.
Although the lowbrow delicacy is something to behold, she says it's no small feat. The work can be tough with shifts that can feel like an eternity. She also "hates" closing up shop. Then there's the pungent smell, which the princess says comes with the territory. "It's really dirty work," she says. "Your hair smells bad, your clothes smell bad, [and] the money you make smells bad."
Ultimately, that's a sacrifice Tarr must make for her people. "People love corn dogs, it's like nostalgia for them," she says. And with hordes of festivalgoers trusting her with their hopes and dreams, it's up to Atlanta's one and only princess to watch over the corn dog kingdom.