Fair Season: What exactly is that?! {part 1}

I’ve had a couple of people ask me just what is “Fair Season”; I often forget that most peoples lives aren’t lived for a huge event that becomes all consuming once a year. For us, that is “Fair Season”.

Matt and I both have very similar family backgrounds in this respect. I grew up doing farmers’ markets and festivals with my parents…sometimes it was selling the sausage and meats my dad made {he is a wurstmacher* by trade} so people could go home and cook it and sometimes it was selling them cooked to lots of hungry people. Matt’s family has had a concession stand at the county fair for almost 30 years…selling hamburgers, hot dogs, and such faire. Both of us wanted to get away from all of it and somehow we’re back in it on our own. Funny how life works.

Fair Season What Exactly Is that!

It’s a hard business. It’s a lot of work. And no one sees any of it, except getting their food. That’s how the food industry is…no one sees anything but the end product and never truly appreciates what they’re eating until they do {for those who were wondering…it doesn’t just magically appear on your plate}.

So what does fair season entail for us? In June we start with calling all of the people who worked for us the year before, anywhere from 10-15 people, to find out whether they’re wanting to work this fair or not. Sometimes everyone comes back and all things are in order quickly, sometimes we’re scrambling up until the week before to find people, and sometimes we have people who walk off the job on the first day {those are always the best!}.

My birthday {July 21st} is usually the last hurrah, the end of our summer. Matt and I try and make a point of going out for my birthday, because it is really the last time that we will have time together before the end of August.

Pretty quickly Matt’s weekends are spent driving to the nearest city {an hour one way} that has a wholesale club. There are numerous trips back and forth getting soda, paper products, and countless other things that are needed to actually setup and run the stand. There’s equipment that needs to be looked over and checked out {large 4’ commercial griddles, steam tables, several fryers, gas lines, power lines,  counters, tables, sinks and plumbing}. There are orders that need to be placed with vendors who supply us with materials {shirts for employees, food products to sell etc}. And all of this happens while Matt is still working his other job, which is also in its busy season.

The two weekends before fair week Matt is busy with getting things setup. All of the equipment has to be brought in, setup, leveled, made sure that it works and is ready to rock n’ roll. It all takes time. It all requires attention to detail. This is all the stuff that no one sees. Most people have no concept of what goes in to setting up a full fledged RESTAURANT in the middle of a field for a week.

Fair Stand

Hopefully everything is setup in working order before the first day of the fair. Sometimes a piece of equipment has an issue and you have to scramble to fix it or replace it. Just this year we had a freezer go out {we have 3 of them and a walk in}, Matt had to clean everything out of our home chest freezer to use it at the fair. Other years it’s been a gas line or a burner for a grill or fryer. There’s always something, the problem is…you don’t know what, so you can’t prepare for it.

In the days before the fair Matt receives in all of our food orders to our big walk-in freezer/fridge, he also handles his father’s and a couple of other customers. Since Matt’s job with my parents is food provisions for restaurants and delis he has several customers for that business that have orders specifically for fair week, which creates that much more work.

The day before the fair Matt starts packing the freezers and fridges at the fair with the food he will need. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room to house everything we will need for the entire week, so every night, after working all day, he has to go and bring more food back down to the fairgrounds.

Next time I’ll share what exactly fair week is like…

*What’s a wurstmacher? It’s a German word for someone who is a true artisan when it comes to sausage making. We’re not talking Johnsonville Brats, but someone who has honed their craftsmanship of making sausage. These are not mass-produced sausages, but sausages that are made in small batches, created entirely by hand.


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