Church building updated food stand at fairgrounds


The congregation of a Seymour church that has been serving food to people attending the Jackson County Fair for more than 70 years will operate out of a new and larger building when this year’s fair begins July 22.

Volunteers with Immanuel Lutheran Church demolished the congregation’s food stand earlier this month to erect a new one.

The old food stand was built in the months leading up to the 1952 fair, although Immanuel had been selling food at the fair since 1946.

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“I’ve been told the first year they served was out of a tent,” said Jim Kamman, vice chairman of the congregation.

Kamman, who also sits on the committee overseeing the development of the new food stand, said the original building had been renovated several times over the years.

“It had humble beginnings and has come a long way,” he said, adding he has been told that some of the early years featured dirt floors that would get muddy when it rained.

The new facility will look much like the former one but will be a little wider and have a little more space under the roof for seating, Kamman said.

The building willbe 2,773 square feet and include a 20-by-26-foot covered seating area. In comparison, the old food stand was 1,600 square feet.

In terms of efficiency, planners project an 82 percent utilization of the floor plan in the new facility, while the old one allowed for only 60 percent utilization, Kamman said.

Kamman said construction should begin any time now depending on the weather and is expected to be completed by July 1.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said.

Dale VonDielingen, chairman of the congregation, said with the construction of the new facility, the congregation is looking at the future while maintaining its presence at the fair.

“Our congregation is really excited to continue the tradition of serving great food to the people attending the Jackson County Fair,” he said. “We really wanted to get something that would serve the next generation and even beyond that, so we’re hoping this structure serves the community for 20 or 30 years. This isn’t a short-term thing.”

The original structure provided little space for volunteers during fair week to prepare, cook and place food out for customers to purchase at the stand.

Committee members kept that in mind during the design phase of the project. There also was an effort made to make it safer near the fryers.

The rear of the facility also will have seating available for the elderly or handicapped people.

The changes also are designed to help improve how fast volunteers can produce food for customers.

“I think the new building will be able to make things go faster and smoother,” Kamman said, adding that poses challenges on nights when the stand is busy. “Sometimes, on a night when the weather is nice, we can’t get the product out fast enough.”

One change the nearly 300 people who help out during fair week are sure to appreciate is the climate-controlled area for food preparation. The frying area will not be climate-controlled but will have improved ventilation and air circulation.

“It’s not going to be so blazing hot in there,” Kamman said. “I think it’s going to be more comfortable in there and safer.”

VonDielingen said the climate control will make it safer for volunteers but also for food safety.

He said the last major renovation occurred in 1986 when self-service was implemented.

The congregation has been planning for more than a year, and about 50 volunteers have been involved in the planning to reach this point, VonDielingen said.

He said volunteers from the congregation also will help with construction as much as possible.

“We’ve relied on the generosity and willingness of our members to volunteer their time, talent and treasures,” he said. “I think that’s the key to these kind of projects coming to life. We’ve had a lot of good involvement and a lot of interest in it.”

Kamman said a lot of time was spent on planning to ensure they thought through everything.

“We wanted to make sure we got all our ducks in the best row we could,” he said. “Once you tear it down, you’re committed.”

VonDielingen said he is thankful the congregation has volunteers willing to dedicate so much time to the project.

“It’s special to see people come together for a project like this,” he said.

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