Food Sales A Lifeline For Remaining Booths At Rockingham County Fair
By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 8/18/20
For Rockingham County 4-H, operating the food booth at the Rockingham County Fair is its only source of fundraising and one of four booths to be open this year.
“Without funds raised here, there is no money for scholarships or clubs,” said Austin Payne, co-chair of the Rockingham County 4-H Food Pavilion.
The food booths at the county fair can be the largest fundraisers of the year for area nonprofits, such as the 4-H, Ruritans and FFA, according to Fair General Manager Rebecca Holloway. The fair typically has 11 booths open, but this year only four have returned — McGaheysville Ruritan Club, Mount Crawford Ruritan Club, Rockingham County Young Farmers and Rockingham County 4-H.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create changes for fair planners, Amy Keeler, a volunteer for the fair, said there had been several meetings to discuss which booths would be returning and which would stay closed.
For the few booths that are operational, the importance of fundraising has been heightened.
“With us not being able to make money, that is less money going back to the community,” Keeler said.
Keeler has been volunteering at the Mount Crawford Ruritan Club Booth since it opened in 2007 and said coming back this year to volunteer was “very different.” The Mount Crawford Ruritan Club Booth is one of two booths offering food this year, but only the Rockingham County 4-H Food Pavilion will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For visitors who make their way to the fair this year, they can still expect the same type of food offered at the open booths, which means deep-fried pickles at the Mount Crawford Ruritan booth and funnel cake at the McGaheysville Ruritan booth — but only on Thursday and Friday.
“We didn’t change the menu,” Keeler said. “It’s like you have your staples and you want to keep those, keep it normal, so when you come here you’ll get the same thing as last year.”
There have been changes made to how food will be served, Keeler said, as everything will be covered when leaving the food booths. At the Rockingham County 4-H Food Pavilion, Payne said, condiments are no longer located outside and will be served in single-serving packages. Picnic tables were also spaced out to allow for social distancing.
Keeler added that for the booths still open, all funds raised would go directly back to the community.
“Everybody is scared and that is understandable, but the community has to get back to some sort of normalcy,” she said. “It is important to show support because whatever [ visitors] spend here, all that goes back to the community. Showing support for the fair and county supports everyone.”
Payne agreed with Keeler that coming back this year was different, but said for his booth a lot of it is still the same.
“We are still operating with the same menu and hours,” he said. “We still need to provide food for workers and for the barn and we are the only booth that has breakfast.”
With only two booths open serving a wide variety of food items, Payne said it helps them out since there are a limited number of people permitted on the grounds, which limits business.
Payne said since there is no admission to the fair, those looking for fair food can get it to-go if they would like. If looking for a cold treat, the Rockingham County Young Farmers Booth will be serving Tot’s Ice Cream and root beer floats.
The Rockingham County Fair will be open 4 to 8 p.m. through Saturday.