Osceola: Feeding the fair faithful
SIBLEY – Some people think of livestock and show competition when they think of their local county fair. Others think of entertainment. But for some it’s attending the fair for the kind of food you can only get once a year during fair season.
A longtime tradition of serving food and keeping folks fed at the fair is carried on each year at the Osceola County Fair all in thanks to the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA chapter.
Mike Earll, Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA advisor, has been on both sides of the FFA food stand at the Osceola County Fair – once as a student-server and now as the one helping run the show.
“It’s my 30th year here as the advisor,” Earll said. “I grew up in this chapter and I decided to come back here. This is an exceptionally supportive community.”
That support is evident especially at the food stand with all of the people and businesses listed that have donated time, products and equipment to the FFA each year to keep the food stand not only operational, but in the updated facilities it is in now.
Earll said the food stand has been at the fair since the 1930s and was in a few different locations before finding its present home near the front entrance 28-years ago.
Just three years ago Earll said the food stand received some much needed insulation and air conditioning, making it a nice place for people to get out of the summer heat and enjoy a good meal.
“We were very grateful for the insulating and air conditioning,” said Earll.
One of the biggest traditions of the food stand is its barbecue recipe.
Earll said that in a previous location, a tattered piece of paper on a wall listed the ingredients for the barbecue sauce. Despite the paper’s disclaimer that it was not a recipe, Earll noted, they’ve gone by that paper ever since.
Earll said the FFA chapter serves a standard menu which includes burgers, fries, hot dogs and coneys and a full breakfast each morning.
He estimated they go through 380 pounds of French fries, 340 pounds of hamburgers and 60 pounds of hot dogs each year.
The Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter has 101 in-school members, which makes in the third largest FFA chapter in the state, Earll said.
It’s the large member following that makes the food stand at the fair a success each year.
“We have three shifts each day for the FFA members to sign-up to work. Their parents help out, too. We’re fortunate to have good parent support,” said Earll.
Some of the students, Earll said, juggle their time at the food stand with their time competing at the fair and others, he said, making their one and only trip to the fair just to work at the food stand.
Money made each year from their efforts, not only at the food stand, but during other activities and fundraising efforts, help pay for FFA’ers to attend trips and conventions. In order to reap those benefits, Earll said, the members must put the time in and volunteer to work.
Some of the students spent two weeks, he said visiting Washington D.C., Florida and Kentucky. Most of that expense was covered through such fundraisers. The annual national and state FFA conventions are other places students benefit from their hard work.
Besides raising money for trips and conventions, the students are also gaining experience working with the public.
“There’s more to it than just making money,” said Earll. “They are actually serving the public and are talking to people, making change, it is a learning experience.”
Contact Kriss Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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