Fans Drive-Thru Fairgrounds for Taste of Fair Food

CANFIELD, Ohio – Vendors entered the Canfield Fairgrounds Friday unsure of what to expect. It was a weekday and the weather was inconsistent during the week.

Plenty of customers, however, waited up to an hour in their cars for a drive-thru Fair Food Extravaganza. It was the first day of the three-day event, which continues today and Sunday, and provided a taste of fairs and festivals when many in the greater area have been canceled.

“We were kind of nervous because if you go into Boardman, the restaurants aren’t very crowded yet,” said Richard Mullen, owner of Shirley’s Steak and Sausage. “We didn’t know how it was going to be.”

George Roman, the Canfield Fair director of concessions and entertainment, said the fairgrounds saw approximately 850 cars, with about 50 parked outside the gate before the “soft opening” began. 

“You never know what to expect on a first adventure, but we thought we had it planned well enough,” Roman said. “We have enough vendors and they’re the vendors people have a desire for right now.”

Cars drove through the Gate 9 entrance on Ohio Route 46 and snaked their way past 12 roadside vendors selling fries, lemon shakes and other fair treats. A man’s voice directed riders as a horse show was conducted in the distance.

For now, it’s the closest the vendors and fairgoers will get to the Canfield Fair.

“I don’t know if it’s just the time frame, but at this point, our fairs from Labor Day through October – all those fairs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina – they’re all planning to proceed at this point,” said The Apple Cart owner Bary Bunts.

The vendors had to change the ordering process to maintain safety standards. One employee was stationed outside of each stand to take the order and complete the transaction while others prepared the food.

Madison Keich, from DeChellis-Keich Concessions, conducted her booth’s transactions on an iPad while another employee wrote down the order and took it to the stand.

“It’s just a lot different with all the health requirements and the fact that cars are driving up,” Keich said. “It’s just different, but I think it works pretty well.”

For D&E Lemonade owner Mary Mann, the drive-thru was a welcome idea given that all of her fairs have been canceled through August. 

“We still have insurance bills to pay,” Mann said. “We put a big building up to store the trailers. We still have that payment to make, so it is nice to have something to help out.”

D&E Lemonade Employee Barbara Schell takes an order to customers in their car.

Uncertainty still looms over the Canfield Fairgrounds.

Roman and the fairgrounds staff plan to host the 174th Canfield Fair, but he said things could change quickly. He and the staff want to see if there is a second surge of COVID-19 later this summer.

“Since Ohio’s opened up in the last two weeks, I think by the next two weeks, we’ll see if there’s going to be any kind of increase in the cases,” Roman said. “And it all depends on that and what [Gov. Mike DeWine] decrees from there.”

For now, Roman said the directors and staff will take it day by day. And for the next two days, vendors and their customers can taste what could return in September.

Pictured: The Apple Cart employee Tattiana Caballero brings cotton candy to customers at Fair Food Extravaganza at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.