Although the Huntingdon County Fair may be canceled because of the coronavirus, food concession stands are trying to make the most of the season to get through to next year.
Food trucks are traveling their traditional routes to sell fair food to customers who wait year-round for their unique dishes. Some reported their income has been slashed by 75%.
John the Greek Food Concessions visits the Huntingdon’s County Fair every year to sell its Greek-inspired fair food. However, as soon as they heard that summer fairs were were throwing in the towel in light of pandemic concerns, the staff packed up a truck and took to the road ahead of schedule.
On their “Fair-less tour,” John the Greek attempts to retrace its normal steps and bring the time-honored tradition of a gyro to longtime returning fans.
“Everybody is glad we’re here. They’re glad to finally get their gyro they look forward to every year,” said Trisha Koutoufaris, a manager at John the Greek. “People love the gyro.”
Koutoufaris explained she has been going to fairs with John the Greek since she can remember. However, that all changed when the pandemic forced fairs across the state to cancel. She explained the most difficult part of running the concession stand during the pandemic is advertising to their customers that they are in town.
“We are so grateful to the people who are coming out and supporting us in this difficult time,” Koutoufaris said.
Bartlebaugh Amusements Inc., based out of Centre County, explained they are doing their best with the situation they have been dealt.
David Bartlebaugh, a manager at Bartlebaugh Amusements, explained the company typically rolls out 30-40 rides, 20 games and 15 food trailers. But this year, things are different. The PPP funds helped keep their more than 60 employees afloat for around two weeks before it dried up, however.
Bartlebaugh Amusements owns several food stands that have been at the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Hall, which focus on selling typical fair food like funnel cakes and monkey bread.
Christina Benner, the owner of Penns Valley Amusements based out of Middleburg, explained that her family has visited Huntingdon County for years on its fair route. Her children, who are in their 20s, all grew up as a “fair family,” and are getting ready to add a third generation to that tradition. However, this year, they are absent from Huntingdon.
Benner is trying to visit similar areas to her fair route and set up shop at fire companies. Fire companies allow the Benners to use their property, while they give advertising to the companies.
“You go so many years where you have so many events, and now you’re trying to find events to stay afloat. There are a lot of unknowns,” said Bartlebaugh Amusements manager David Bartlebaugh.
Bartlebaugh alluded to the long-term effects the cancellation of fairs could yield. He explained that if food truck vendors cannot sustain themselves this year and end up going under, it could lead to a decreased appeal in summer fairs and carnivals for years to come.
“What’s left for fairs if food companies can’t come back?” he pondered.
In place of the Huntingdon County Fair, John the Greek Food Concessions and Bartlebaugh Amusement’s food stands will continue to sell their food at the Smithfield Fire Hall parking lot from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Saturday.
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