GREENFIELD — A newcomer to this year’s Hancock County 4-H Fair might not recognize it, but veteran fairgoers will understand immediately there’s something missing under the food tent this year.
After a nearly 20-year run, the Eastern Hancock Athletic Boosters are not serving their acclaimed chicken noodle dinner at the fair.
In January, the group decided to divert its fundraising efforts to other activities, citing a lack of volunteers to oversee and manage the club’s food concession. The boosters historically served the usual fair food offerings along with full, home-cooked meals and daily specials such as meatloaf. The group’s daylong hog roast became a dinnertime draw.
“I begged and begged to get somebody in here,” said Doug Addison county 4-H agricultural association at-large director in charge of food booths. “I had one group come by in May, but there wasn’t enough time to get it ready, so maybe they’ll be back next year.”
In the meantime, there are plenty of seats filling the space formerly occupied by the boosters, and the Charlottesville Lions Club, paired with the Eastern Hancock Choir boosters, have claimed the north end of the tent to sell the Lions’ “Almost World Famous” tenderloin and fish sandwiches.
The choir boosters were happy for the extra space and the opportunity to bring in some extra cash during fair week.
“We needed to raise some money, and (the Lions) were gracious enough to invite us in,” said EH choir mom Melisa Alkire.
Though the Lions will sell a few more tenderloins and cobs of corn in the adjoining tent, Addison said the loss of the athletic boosters will be felt this year until a replacement can be found.
“We’re down a huge spot, and it’s going to hurt big,” Addison said. “I can’t count how many people came and ate supper here for years. You could get a home-cooked meal, but you can’t get that anymore.”
Additionally, there was some tradition involved.
“One lady came in here Sunday after church to eat breakfast. She and her husband had been doing that for years,” he said.
One tent’s loss, however, is another concession’s gain: Business was hopping at the 4-H Junior Leaders’ food stand in the exhibition hall.
“We’re feeling the overload,” said Jeannie Plummer, junior leader booth coordinator. “They usually have a chance to talk and socialize, but this year, they’ve all been pretty busy.”
As Plummer spoke, the 4-H’ers were scurrying back and forth in the hot-food concession, packing the brisk-selling walking tacos, making snow cones and bagging veggie wraps.
“We’ve even had parents of former junior leaders jumping in here to help,” Plummer said.
In addition to their stand at the exhibition hall, the leaders are also expanding their food service to the Multipurpose Arena, Plummer said.
Outside, two new fair fare concessions rolled in this year.
Miles Fleming, who operates Mom and Pop Concessions of Bluffton, was hoping for a good week after a lean one in Converse, where the absence of the carnival left nothing at the fair but a bounce house and plenty of room to move around, Fleming said.
“It was kind of a bust,” he said.
Fleming’s arrival in Greenfield marks only his fourth event selling market-fresh burgers and tenderloins.
Parked next to Fleming’s trailer, John Wable of Fortville was taking a break behind his Pineapple Whip concession, and like Fleming, hoping for a good week.
Wable said he’s come to the fair for years, but this year marks his second as a food concessionaire.
Looking across the lot from the Lions Club’s hot vats of tenderloin and fish, seeing Wable’s pineapple whip stand was at least one bright spot for Addison, who was standing next to where a tent-full of fairgoers would have been having a chicken-and-noodle dinner.
“I like pineapple whip,” he said.