By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Feeding, hydrating and entertaining the thousands of visitors at the Wood County Fair is big business.
Just ask the vendors at Mike’s Cheese Shack, where they deep fry golden nuggets of cheese from after sunrise to after sundown. The crew planned to fry a couple thousand pounds of cheese this past week at the fair.
“This is our second largest fair,” in terms of the mass quantities of cheese curds sold, an employee of the cheese shack said. “People here like cheese curds.”
“They like them all day long,” he said, pointing out the marks on his arm from flying grease.
And of course, fairgoers need cold beverages to wash down all that deep fried goodness. Many of them go to the lemonade stand located right next to the entrance of the grandstand.
“Our lemonade is amazing,” said Danielle Schlageter, who estimated the stand will go through about 40 cases of 140 lemons each this week.
Hot weather helps with sales, but business was busy on Monday evening with cooler temperatures.
“They come even in the rain,” Schlageter said.
There are also all kinds of freebies that fairgoers collect as they traverse the fair. Some items are even useful, like the packets of bug repellent being handed out by Alex Aspacher and Kami Wildman, with the Wood County Health Department. The two estimated they would pass out 300 to 400 packets just on Monday evening.
“We’ll be out here a couple hours each day,” Aspacher said. “It’s a conversation starter that allows us to talk to people.”
The fair also gives local politicians the opportunity to shake a lot of hands of potential voters.
At the Wood County Republican Party’s booth, State Rep. Theresa Gavarone was greeting voters. She estimated that in her first hour at the fair, she had shaken about 50 hands.
Kissing babies? That no longer seems to be a big thing for politicians.
“I don’t kiss babies – but I love to see the babies,” Gavarone said with a grin.
A few booths down, at the Wood County Democratic Party’s stand, Michael Galbraith, a candidate for Congress, said he was getting to meet lots of local citizens. Though some fairgoers swing wide of the political booths, others want a chance to meet candidates on the ballot.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks,” Galbraith said, estimating he had shaken about 200 hands in the first 90 minutes.
But Galbraith joked that he draws the line at some greetings. “I kiss no dogs,” he said with a smile.
The 4-H milkshake booth was busy as usual, cranking out the sweet treats. Last year, the stand sold about 18,000 milkshakes during the week of the fair and the tractor pull combined. The big seller during the fair is chocolate, but strawberry surpasses that at the tractor pull, said Donna Arnold.
This week’s weather was great for milkshake sales, Arnold said. Temperatures in the 90s often hurt sales, she added.
“This is perfect weather for milkshakes,” Arnold said.
Down the fairway a bit, volunteers at the pork-a-lean booth were trying to keep up with demands – which can run anywhere from 7,000 to 11,000 pork patties for the week.
“One year they ran out on the last day,” said Congressman Bob Latta, who was wrapping up the pork-a-leans for hungry customers. “Lots of people come here to get a pork-a-lean. They wait all year for this.”
At her three french fry stands at the fair, Cindy Zaker predicted they would cook up 200 50-pound boxes of potatoes this week.
“They like their fries,” she said of Wood County fairgoers.
“The cool weather helps a lot,” Zaker said. “If you don’t have eating weather, people are so used to air conditioning and they don’t come out. We’re just like farmers – dependent on the weather.”