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State Fair Food weekend serves up lifeline for vendors

Posted at 5:47 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 17:51:19-04

CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- The State Fair of Virginia may be cancelled this year, but organizers are working to help vendors reach some much-needed customers at a crucial time.

Marlene Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director, has never had to cancel an entire fair event in more than 30 years of her career.

Despite the pandemic, she and her staff have worked with the health department to forego the rides and help set up more than a dozen food stands.

“There are a tremendous number of logistics that went into pulling off this three day event,” Jolliffe explained.

Most of the vendors who agreed to stage at The Meadow Event Park told CBS 6 they were fortunate that a portion of the fair was still on.

“This would’ve been our 40th year here, since 1981. I’m glad we are here in some capacity,” said Nick Strates who drove in from Mount Airy, Maryland.

Strates estimated he’s lost about 70 to 80 percent in gross revenue that his Greek food stand typically brings in each year.

“It takes so much money to just keep the bare minimums paid,” he stated. “When the fair decided to do this we were so happy.”

Allen Hines estimated his local business, Two Kings Concessions, LLC, has lost more than $600,000 in revenue since the pandemic started. Over 125 events he typically would work were cancelled so far in 2020.

“Without COVID-19 and the pandemic, we were fast and furious,” he said. “We were setting up multiple events every weekend from major colleges in Virginia to local concert events like Innsbrook After Hours.”

The Fair Food Weekend is scheduled on October 2-4 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at The Meadow Event Park located at 13191 Dawn Boulevard in Caroline County.

Visitors will enter through Gate 3 off state Route 30 then walk to the nearby fair food area.

You’re urged to go to StateFairVA.org and print off a free voucher. Visitors must select a two-hour window for arrival to ensure organizers maintain social distancing limits.

Be prepared to wear a mask, Jolliffe warned.

Fair organizers have spaced out the food stands to allow for a queue to form. There will also be plenty of hand sanitizer and employees will have their temperatures checked.

Visitors are encouraged to eat at their cars or socially distanced in the field since there will not be picnic tables.

You can get your iced tea or lemonade fix, load up on cotton candy, elephant ears, funnel cakes and other deep-fried sweets, or satisfy your sweet tooth with hand-made ice cream.

There also will be barbecue, Greek food, grilled sausages and Mexican fare such as quesadillas, burritos and loaded nachos.

Jolliffe called the fairgrounds her “happy place.”

“To watch the pain the [vendors] have gone throughout the season with everything canceling and canceling. It’s been brutal,” she said. “It brings me a great amount of joy to see these folks out here. They’re so ready to see people and have a shot at making revenue. That’s the highlight of the weekend for me.”

A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the State Fair of Virginia scholarship program.

Since 2013 the State Fair has awarded 1,484 scholarships and has awarded over $550,000 to support youth education