Monday, September 22, 2014

From Junior Leaguer to Potato Slinger

"Adventure is worthwhile." ~ Aristotle

It all started with a Facebook post. "I want to work at a food booth at the fair. Is that weird?"

The consensus was mixed...leaning toward the "Yes, it's weird."  But I didn't care. Within days, I found myself doing exactly that.

As my family will attest, my lifelong networking talent comes in handy for virtually every situation. (In other words, I know people. Ha!) It worked out like this: our friend Marshall knows a guy who hired a guy who needed help at his booth selling fried pickle spears, funnel cakes and "Tornado Taters". 

It's hard to explain my joy over getting to do this. I mean, I'm a natural volunteer - worker bee, if you will. If I don't volunteer myself to do something, I volunteer my family to do it. You could sat it's because I'm a Texan and it's in my blood. Or you could say my parents raised me right - because they both volunteer - and I'm carrying on the legacy. Either way, I'm all about helping where I'm needed. It's usually fun, so why not?

After spending 8 years in the Junior League of Amarillo, I would even qualify myself as a professional volunteer. Setting aside the jokes and snide Junior League comments, you must admit that "leaguers" get crap done. We work hard and stay organized. And if I had been active during the Funfest years, I would have already satisfied my burning need to spend time with large amounts of fried food and the general public. But since Funfest ended the year before I joined, this deep desire has lingered...until now!!

Ok. So back to my adventure.

Bad hair...bad, bad hair
My first shift began Wednesday evening. This was a bit unexpected as I had about 45 minutes to get home from work, get changed and get to the Tri-State Fair! (That's really not enough time to get acceptably styled as per JLA guidelines, so I had to just throw on jeans and run out the door donning my own cute apron and a little lip gloss.) Thankfully, I'd put a roast in the crockpot that morning, so I knew my family would be fed while I ran away with the carnies. 

That's Tim on the right, pointing the way.
To my delight, there was a golf cart at the front gate to transport me and Tim (he's the guy who needed help) to the booth. After receiving some basic training - and being sized up by the others working the booth, I was ready to go. (I'm pretty sure my giddy excitement combined with my Gap boyfriend jeans and Ascension Academy t-shirt made me look a bit prissy.)

The trailer is.....cozy. Cozy in a grease-ridden, foil-covered, supply-stuffed sort of way. I'm guessing it was 8 feet wide and 16 feet long, give or take a couple feet. There were counters along one end. Along one long wall the frying section had 5 "stations" for the "taters" and pickles with another area for funnel cakes. Across from that, there were a couple sinks and the "tater" twister: a potato drill press with a blade at the bottom to cut the spuds into that famous spiral form. (Sorry, no picture. I was so excited to be there that I forgot to get one!)
It started out pretty calm with just a few people here and there. Not bad at all. Then, the "dinner" crowd showed up. The line kept growing, the taters frying, funnel cakes cooking and time flew by. By the time I turned around to see who had joined our crew, more than an hour or so had passed. BUT, to my delight, one of my hometown friends was back there! In fact, she and I are distant cousins by marriage! (See? I can find someone I know just about everywhere.) We took a selfie for this blog even though I look like poo. No wonder carnies aren't very cute!

With six to seven people working in the trailer, it is imperative that all the co-friers have good hygiene. Even with all the sweat and grease, no one offended with body odor in our trailer. (I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this.) And, believe me, we did get sweaty and greasy. Not to mention cheesy, jalapeno-ey and sugary. Those taters and funnel cakes, along with their add-ons, are pretty messy. 
Yes, that's grease on the lens. 

As far as people-watching goes, Wednesday was pretty tame. The only excitement was toward the end when a couple guys started to argue - but not over a funnel cake or fried pickles. I don't even really know what got them riled up. But, seeing as the sheriff "tower" was just yards away, that little tiff ended with no blows or bloodshed. (Thank goodness! There's really no place to duck or hide in that tiny trailer!)

Shutting down and cleaning up finally came around 11:15 pm or so. This sounds horrible, right? HOW can you possibly clean all the grease?  Well, Tim has thought of everything. Believe it or not, it isn't that tough! The counters are completely covered with foil. And the floor is covered with cardboard! So you tear it all out, wipe down the surfaces, wash the utensils and throw out the trash. Not bad at all! I was home and quickly washing the funk off my body by 11:45 pm.

But the story doesn't end there. Oh no.... I went back for more! Not one to experience things alone, I volunteered Kerry to come along for a Saturday shift. He was...umm....oddly willing. And after a couple days of recuperation, I was raring to go again! 

This time I was prepared. I made sure my makeup was done, my hair was cute, and my shoes were comfy! I was ready to sling some hash! (See how quickly that happened? From SAT to short-order cook vocab in one 6-hour shift.)

Our fellow cooks this time were some awesome Canyon High football players who had all worked at McDonald's. Talk about organized! These guys knew what they were doing! (Well, except for putting Kerry on the pickle station because he hates pickles. They had no idea how funny that choice was!)

Here we are...the Saturday crew!
It was much hotter in the trailer on Saturday. My plan to look better went out the window when I had to quickly put my hair in a ponytail. BUT I had on another cute apron, and I was ready to work. There were a lot more people milling around on Saturday, so business had a steady feel to it. There always seemed to be someone waiting in line - and funnel cakes were VERY popular. (I began analyzing that. Did people think they better get one because it would be an entire year until they could get another? Do people eat more sweets on the weekend? My marketing background leads me down these paths.....I'm betting carnies could answer these questions!)

Time flew along with a lot of batter and potatoes, and before we knew it, it was quitting time. We hung up our carnie hats, thanked Tim for letting us come play and took our tired, greasy bodies home to wash off the fair funk and join the land of normalcy.

As I sat down to write this blog, I recalled all the things I learned:
Check out this cutie!

  • Not all food booths at the fair are LOCAL. Some really are run by the carnies. (So choose me...while I joke about hanging out with carnies, I DID NOT hang out with real live carnies.)
  • They still have "sideshow" acts that travel around to fairs. There was the World's Smallest Girl that was a very small person who, from what I was told, looked very sad. I think that's AWFUL, and the person who told me said that he felt guilty for going after he saw her. I think we should say NO to allowing that at our fair. 
  • Prices are pre-set and determined way before the fair starts. So there's no "deal" to be had - regardless of how cute you are or how sweet you act. Booths can get shut down for undercutting each other or having "sale" prices.
  • Fair food, while delicious, isn't really something I want to eat anytime soon. 
  • I didn't see a SINGLE fly. Amazing, right?
  • There were SO many elderly people visiting the fair! I guess this shouldn't surprise me since they recall the days when the fair was more about food, family and exhibit halls than carnival rides. But they were pretty darn cute - and I even snapped a picture of one lady who was especially fancy! favorite...

I really am married to the perfect man for me. When we got home and stood in the kitchen talking about our adventure, Kerry looked at me and said, "Ok. That's done. What's next?"

Would I do it again? Maybe a day shift. But I am thankful for the experience and excitement it brought to my life!

Oh.. and thanks to all my friends who stopped by to visit, snap pictures and videos of my experience. Y'all made it A LOT more fun!