Rice County Fair Local Food Booths Loyalty Abounds
The 145th Rice County Fair wrapped up today after what many local food booth vendors told KDHL was a terrific week. Just one wash out day Thursday, otherwise perfect fair weather. Warm temperatures and a cool breeze brought out some big appetities. Years ago the Rice County Fair had no outside of Faribault food vendors. All vendors were from here. I walked around the fairgrounds visiting with local vendors and they all said they had varying degrees of success.
The oldest local food booth appears to be the St. Luke's Booth which celebrated it's 75th year. The church actually started in 1909 and has been at it's current location 1100 9th Avenue Southwest since 1970. In 2004 they became a nondenominational, Christ-centered, evangelical church. St. Lukes Church Vacation Bible School is July 29-August 1 after working at the fair serving their pulled beef, sloppy joes and hot dogs. Plus delicious desserts.
The Bethlehem Academy food stand (BA Cardinal Cafe) was started in 1950. Their breakfasts have been a huge hit not only for fair enthusiasts attending before the other booths open but also 4-H members, radio broadcasters and those working the carnival and even some of the other food booths.
Those in charge told me they had their best ever gross receipts in the stand on Saturday and Friday wasn't too far behind. The Cardinal Cafe food booth had their best ever Wednesday at the fair.
The Rice County Pork Producers stand has been at the Rice County Fair for approximately 45 years. I say approximately because an exact year isn't known. The first number of years they only served pork burgers. About 5 years ago they put up a new stand and the menu has expanded to pork chops on a stick and other pork items. By the way they ran out of pork chops Sunday to tell you how popular the stick and bun pork chop varieties are. I had a couple of each myself.
Schroder Concessions has grown out of what was Meely's Concessions. Ralph Schroder bought the concession business in 1962 and it's still going strong today. Brad Schroder is unsure when Meely's began but believes it was in the 1940's so that's why I said St. Luke's is believed to be the oldest serving food booth. They have grown to serve a number of fairs and other celebrations at one time and have become a big part of the Minnesota State Fair each year. The variety of food and drink is too numerous to mention.
Ray Unser had a root beer stand in downtown Faribault in the 1950's and Steve Bauer purchased the stand and it's root beer special recipe in 1989. It's been at the Rice County Fair ever since. Shortly after the purchase Bauer was told he needed a nicer looking stand to get into the Steele County Free Fair and so the present trailer was custom made and the rest as they say is history. With root beer and root beer floats their specialty. The inner workings of the root beer maker are still the backbone of their business.
Temple Concessions was started in 1983 and has grown to a handful of stands at the Rice County Fair with cheese curds and deep friend mushrooms and even gluten free products are offered currently. Troy Temple catered some high school graduation open houses in recent years which he says were "fun."
Heise's Pronto Pup stand was purchased from Stan Thibodeau and is believed to have been at the Rice County Fair since approximately 1965. The popcorn shack was started approximately a decade previous.
Lopez Mexican Food stand was started in 1979 and has been at the Rice County Fair since 1983.
Godfather's Pizza has been at the Rice County Fair since 1980 and Faribault Manager Mark Korbel says bringing their pizza to the fair was "a very good move." In fact when I was visiting with Mark a customer commented the pizza "tastes better at the fair." Korbel chuckled and said the only difference is baking with propane.
It is my assumption that the 4-H Food Stand has been a fixture at the fair since shortly after 4-H started in this area. In Minnesota 4-H began around the same time it was started in the country in 1902. T.A. Erickson of Douglas County started local agriculture after school clubs and fairs the same year. That is when the organizations says they got their start even though they weren't called 4-H yet.
It was officially called 4-H in 1912 according to their national website.
I'll try to track down local 4-H food booth information by next year's Rice County Fair.