As the Madoc Fair arrives, I say: “Bring back the Booth!”

Satisfied customers at the fair booth

Service with a smile and satisfied customers at the Queensborough booth at the Madoc Fair, September 2005. (Photo taken from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

This coming weekend brings the Madoc Fair, and if you’re not excited about that, well, I don’t even want to know you. I love the fair, and Raymond does too.

Grandpa Ellis taffy

The Grandpa Ellis Taffy trailer is a happy sight at the Madoc Fair.

We especially like the horse-pull competition – which formed the backdrop and running theme of my first long post about the fair, back in 2012 when I’d visited it for the first time since my long-ago childhood – but we also get a kick out of the displays of prize-winning vegetables and baking, the sheep-herding demonstration (which that first year featured a duck, instead of a sheepdog, herding the sheep, which was pretty entertaining), and the 4-H kids doing their thing, all dressed in spiffy white, exhibiting their dairy calves and whatnot. And I like the Grandpa Ellis taffy, which you can see being made just minutes before you are able to buy and eat  it. And Raymond lingers longingly over the shiny new pickup trucks from Doug Hunter Ford that are always on display inside the arena.

But what I want to tell you about tonight isn’t all of that stuff. I want to tell you about the booth that the United Church Women of St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough ran at the Madoc Fair forever and ever and ever. It’s a little wooden building in a prime spot on the fairgrounds, near the horse-pulling track and the bandstand; and at that little both every fair weekend, folks would line up many people deep for French fries and hot dogs and hamburgers and the best homemade pie you ever tasted. The women (and some men) of the church worked their bottoms off all weekend, peeling hundreds of pounds of potatoes, working over hot fryers and grills, and slicing up pie after pie after pie.

It was a great fundraiser for the church, and it was pretty universally regarded as the primo spot for good eats at the fair. And while I never got the chance to work in the booth myself back in the day – I imagine it was felt that kids would only get in the way of the super-efficient ladies of the UCW – I think I’m safe in guessing that the volunteers who did take part had a great time even though they worked really, really hard.

A few years ago the St. Andrew’s people decided that they’d have to give up the booth at the fair. The number of people who could be rounded up to help out was getting smaller and smaller, and nobody was getting any younger, and it was just too much work for too few people.

Inside the fair booth

The view from inside the booth – something I never got to experience when I was growing up here, but would love to get a chance at now as a volunteer worker and server. And the best thing about this photo? At right is Pauline Harris, who was a pillar of St. Andrew’s and just a wonderful person. (Photo from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

But this week I got a happy reminder of the days when the Queensborough booth was in full swing. Our friend Terry, a stalwart and hard-working member of the St. Andrew’s congregation who was also, with his wife, Joan, a volunteer at the booth for many years, gave me a delightful gift: some DVDs featuring video footage of the women (and men) at work.

Fries at the fair

Fries at the booth, fresh out of the deep-fryer. (Photo from a video courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

What a treat it was to watch! Everyone did seem to be having a lot of fun. The fries looked scrumptious; Raymond, who adores fries, was practically drooling. And perhaps best of all, there were the much-loved faces of some people who are no longer with us – notably Pauline Harris, a pillar of St. Andrew’s and the community, and Bobbie Sager Ramsay, ditto on the pillar front and about whom I’ve written many times before. (The best one is probably the story of Bobbie’s wedding, which took all of Queensborough by surprise; it’s here.)

When St. Andrew’s gave up the booth, it was taken over by another church group, this one from Madoc. And good food is still served there; the pie in particular is still pretty great. But what I wouldn’t give to have that annual tradition back in the hands of our little church and community, this time with Raymond and me on hand to help out. I am a non-stop whirlwind of energy when it comes to working for a good cause, and how I would love to be part of a Queensborough team helping to feed the fairgoers and support our lovely and historic church at the same time. And maybe I could even enlist some of you wonderful Meanwhile, at the Manse readers to stop by and give an hour or two of your time to help too!

So what do you think? Should we start a Bring Back the Booth campaign?

Or – come to think of it (she says at the end of a long, hard week) – should we just take it easy and enjoy the fun of an old-fashioned fall fair – and let someone else cook the fries and pie? I suppose there’s quite a bit to be said for that too.

At any rate, people: see you at the fair this weekend!

2 thoughts on “As the Madoc Fair arrives, I say: “Bring back the Booth!”

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