San Benito Lifestyle

County Fair hosts drive-thru food fest at Bolado Park

Dara Tobias and crew spend the weekend serving up corn dogs and funnel cakes to 300 carloads of guests.
Cars lined up at Bolado Park to experience the Fair Food Fest drive-thru from July 17-19. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Cars lined up at Bolado Park to experience the Fair Food Fest drive-thru from July 17-19. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Tatiana Johnson her brother Cameron enjoy their lemonade. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Tatiana Johnson her brother Cameron enjoy their lemonade. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Waiting in line for food. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Waiting in line for food. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Lemonade stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Lemonade stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Funnel cakes, corn dogs, fried Oreos and Twinkies food stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Funnel cakes, corn dogs, fried Oreos and Twinkies food stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Kettle corn stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.
Kettle corn stand. Photo courtesy of Audrey Johnson.

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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Patty Lopez Day

Patty Lopez Day,  has been a reporter for Benitolink since August of 2019.  A journalist and writer by trade she's had work published in print and online media throughout the Bay Area most notably La Oferta, the longest running Bi-lingual, Latino owned media outlet based in San Jose California where she started her journalism career after  graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2005.  Born and raised in San Jose, she is now a transplant to Hollister establishing roots alongside her husband and 2 school aged children in San Benito County. Lopez Day covers mostly education, local news and  features for Benitolink and remains open to new story ideas, sources and tips on any subject matter of interest to the community at large.