LIMA — County fairs can evoke a variety of images, from livestock shows to harness racing to concerts. One constant during fair week, however, is the food, an attraction that was highlighted Tuesday at the Allen County Fair.
Thirteen vendors representing a diverse menu of fair food options, ranging from deep-fried food to hamburgers to barbecue to Asian cuisine to kettle corn and other desserts, participated in the Taste of the Fair event Tuesday, offering a sample menu item to fairgoers for $2, giving participants an opportunity to choose their favorites while also helping vendors garner more foot traffic.
One participating vendor was Famous Gabby’s Kitchen out of Brooksville, Florida. The vendor has been in operation for 30 years, setting up at events from Battle Creek, Michigan, down to Florida. While rain kept the crowds smaller at the fair Tuesday afternoon, manager Terry Funnell described fair traffic as somewhat typical of other county fairs he has worked.
“The people are great,” he said. “Everyone’s loving our new trailer. Last year, we didn’t have this trailer. We had built everything out of wood. But we got this and it’s our maiden voyage with it.”
While some vendors journeyed hundreds of miles to get to Allen County, other vendors call this region home, either working local events or traveling throughout Ohio and beyond. One example is Chris Newsome of Dupont-based Prowant Specialty Co., a business operating several food vendors at the fair. A native of Continental, Newsome is closer to home this week, although his job takes him on the road from May through November.
“I go up into Michigan, personally,” he said. “I take two trailers up there. The rest of the food goes to Bowling Green, Napoleon, Findlay and Kenton in the county fair route. We did Putnam County earlier this year.”
Even closer to home, Newsome stays at the fairgrounds because of his busy schedule.
“The days are so long and you get so tired that it’s easier to just go to the camper,” he said. “You come out, run stock, open up the trailers and get everything going.”
LuAnn Lause, a retired Allen East teacher, operates Holt Concessions, an ice cream vendor at the fair, along with Craig Mason, of Findlay. Lause prefers to stay close to home, returning to her Lima home at night during fair week. Mason grew up in this area, and the fair offers him a chance to reconnect with people from his past.
“You can interact with people you don’t often see,” he said. “There would be people I went to school with or friends and relatives I don’t get to see all the time.”