EATON — Food service workers and concessionaires at the Preble County Fairgrounds say that business at this year’s fair has been even better than it was before COVID-19.
Twin Valley South sophomore Hannah Thorpe, who works at a booth advertising “cold drinks, corn dogs and french fries,” said the 2021 fair’s first day on Saturday, July 31, was especially busy.
“It was like a constant line,” Thorpe said.
Ginny Aldora – who’s been working for the Rismiller family, owners of Rismiller’s Soft Pretzels, for 17 years – was also quick to mention Saturday’s record turnout.
“Saturday’s not usually a heavy night for the Preble County Fair,” Aldora said. “But this year it was very busy. We’ve seen a lot more people come out.”
Aldora indicated that business might even be better than it was before COVID.
“I think we’ve been busier than in years previous,” Aldora said. “We’ve always done good, but we’ve done really good this year.”
Greenville-based vendor Mike Fletcher, who sells hot dogs and root beer at a concession called Dogs ‘n Suds, expressed similar sentiments. Fletcher also mentioned the fair’s unusually high weekend attendance.
“Saturday was a record day,” Fletcher said. Ticket sales were reportedly at least 30 percent higher than the previous record, according to fair personnel.
Fletcher’s hot dog trailer has been a long-time fixture at the Preble County Fair.
“I’ve been here 14 years at this same spot,” Fletcher said. “And the family I bought this from had been here for 35 or 40 years.”
Weekday mornings tend to be quieter, according to Fletcher, but things usually get busier at night.
“During the day it’s a little slow, but it’ll pick up tonight,” Fletcher said on Thursday afternoon. “It’s tractor pull night!”
Fletcher credited the closures and stay at home orders prevalent during COVID-19 for causing the uptick in attendance.
“I think everybody wants to get out and do something,” Fletcher said, to which Aldora agreed.
“People are tired of being cooped up,” she said.
Nan Brown, owner of the Arcanum-based concession “Just Ice Cream,” has been working the Preble and Darke County Fairs for over 30 years.
“It’s been really good – a great year,” Brown said. “It seems like it’s been busier. People seem happy, and glad to get back out.”
Florida-based vendor Mark Frasier has been running fair concessions for “a few years” – he won’t say how many.
“I don’t want to give away my age,” Frasier said.
Frasier indicated that this year has been a big change from 2020, when limitations imposed due to COVID-19 left him with no business to speak of.
“It’s been an okay year so far, and we’re glad to be working,” Frasier said.
Frasier was more cautious than some of his fellow vendors, however, indicating that business at the Preble County Fair has been on par with most of the events he’s worked, and has been in line with that of previous years.
“It’s staying up with all the other ones,” Frasier said, implying that business had returned to pre-COVID levels. “I’d say it’s back to where it was.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish