The nostalgic scents of comfort food filled the air at Bolado Park over the weekend while attendees of the Fair Food Fest waited in line to order county fair favorites such as corn dogs, kettle corn, lemonade, fried Oreos and Twinkies, and funnel cakes.
San Benito County Fair Manager and CEO Dara Tobias estimated 300 cars drove through the park July 17-19. She said the most popular food items seemed to be the funnel cakes and corn dogs.
“The profits were not huge and we are working on some ideas to make it faster,” she said. “I greeted and thanked many of our guests and even with the long waits they seemed to enjoy the treats.”
Audrey Johnson waited 30 minutes in line to get her order, which included a funnel cake loaded with strawberries, chocolate, powdered sugar and whipped cream. While she thought the service was great, she said it would have been nice if the wait were shorter and if there were a designated place to park nearby to eat the food. Some of her food was soggy by the time she was able to find somewhere to eat it.
As for the best part of the drive-thru, Johnson said, “Enjoying the fried fair food even though we couldn’t have the fair.” She attended the food festival with her two children, seven-year-old Tatiana and four-year-old Cameron. She said her children did not understand the fair food without the fair concept adding, “I just explained to them because of COVID they couldn’t have a large group mixed at the fairgrounds. It was fun for the kids to get out.”
Tobias, who started as a volunteer at the county fairgrounds in 1994, said the idea for a drive-thru food fair came from a collaboration with other county fairs in California doing the same thing. She pointed to an article in Food and Wine Magazine which describes similar events nationwide.
She also addressed the lack of a county fair in San Benito this year.
“We are sad, too. We have dedicated our careers to help people have fun learning about agriculture and their community, and celebrate milestone events in their lives,” she said. “Fairgoers make lifelong memories, meet future spouses, learn skills that make career connections and so many other experiences at county fairs. It is very sad that we will miss that. We also have vendors and event operators who have missed a whole season of work and their businesses may not survive. It is a scary time for our industry.”
Nonetheless, Tobias told Benitolink that county fair organizers are looking at holding other drive-thrus in August, and in early October when the county fair would have taken place.
Jenevie Hernandez took her eight-year-old son Elijah Flores to the drive-thru. Although he complained about the hour and a half wait, Hernandez said he was beyond satisfied with his funnel cake.
“His eyes lit up and almost popped out!” she said.
Hernandez said she would come back if the food festival happened again.
“We were excited,” she said. “It sucked they didn’t have rides, but it was a great cause and reason to take my son. Usually by this time of year we are going to Great America or to the boardwalk having summer fun. So, trying to make the best of it by enjoying some carnival fried food made us appreciate it.”
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