Serving at the fair: Congregation dedicates new fair stand

The Immanuel Lutheran Church food stand at the Jackson County Fair has come a long way since the first fairgoers were served back in 1946.

“I was told we served out of a tent with a dirt floor for our first fair,” said Dale VonDielingen, the congregation’s chairman.

On Sunday, the church’s pastors gathered with building committee members, congregation members, representatives from the fair board and the public for the dedication of the new building.

It’s an impressive 2,773-square-foot building and includes a 20-by-26-foot covered seating area. In comparison, the old food stand, which was demolished in January, was 1,600 square feet.

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VonDielingen said he expects the advancement to help the congregation serve food at the fair for a long time.

“This will be a project that will last multiple generations,” he said.

Drew Storey, a member of the building committee, said a number of improvements were made including more space for volunteers; the ability to see in and out of the stand; climate control for volunteers; and updated fryers to improve efficiency.

“We will be able to make more food quicker,” he said.

The space also is a big improvement, and anyone who has volunteered at the stand is sure to appreciate that, Storey said.

“Before you were really squeezing by and now you have enough room to bring carts throughout the building,” he said.

Another major plus for the stand is the ability to accept payment by debit card, credit card and Apple Pay. The stand is equipped with four iPads to accept electronic payments.

“We’re acknowledging today that there are generations that pay that way,” VonDielingen said. “We thought we’d offer it here. It makes a lot of sense to me.”

Storey said it will have a big impact for families that tend to not carry as much cash.

“If my $20 doesn’t get me four corn dogs and some fries, then my kids aren’t going to be happy because that may not be enough,” he said. “We made sure to add those this year to encourage people to spend more time at the fair and not worry about bringing cash.”

The old food stand was built in the months leading up to the 1952 fair and the last major renovation was done in 1986.

After the dedication, which included a brief church service and a ribbon cutting, members were able to ask questions about the new facility and try the food the stand prepares each fair.

Volunteers on the fair stand committee prepared the food to have a test run of the facility and get used to operations.

The congregation uses about 300 volunteers throughout the week of the fair.

That’s a number that could grow with the new stand, Storey said.

“We certainly think we will get more volunteers,” Storey said.

VonDielingen echoed those comments and said that was a theme he heard as the committee planned the new stand.

“I think it makes the congregation feel good that they have the opportunity to serve,” he said. “The reason they wanted this fair stand was because this is how they serve.”

Both were encouraged by the congregation’s commitment to the project.

“I think for me, it is really humbling of how people get involved in a project,” VonDielingen said. “The volunteer effort it was amazing, the generosity of people giving their time and donating equipment and the turnout here today.”

Storey said everyone in the congregation pitched in.

“It’s really neat and we’ve had so much support from new members to seasoned members of the church throughout this whole process,” he said. “There are so many people that put time and effort in it.”

That effort is what made the building turn out the way it has.

“I think it looks great,” Storey said. “We had a lot of great help and input from our members and I think because of that, we have a really nice end product.”

John Schafstall, president of the Jackson County Fair board, said he was impressed with the building and thinks it will draw more people to the fair and encourage them to stay longer.

“This stand will just bring more people here and it’s a great asset to the fair,” he said.

The stand is one of two major new structures at the fair this year. The Livestock Barn 7 show arena was completed and will be showcased this year too.

“You either can get bigger or get smaller; there’s no standing still,” he said after the dedication of Immanuel’s stand. “This building here, the new arena and the new bathrooms are great additions.”

The arena will help encourage more involvement in Jackson County 4-H, which is vital toward growing the fair’s attendance.

“We’ve had goats out here in a tent before and this (new show arena) will allow more kids to get involved,” he said. “That’s what this fair is all about, it’s the 4-H fair.”

The new show arena will enhance the visitor experience for an already impressive fair, he added.

“It’s the best fair in the state,” Schafstall said, noting it is the only free fair in the state. “You can come to this fair and not spend a dime. Everything is free and that’s why it’s such a great fair.”

The fair has always been free and there are no plans to change it.

“This fair belongs to the people,” he said. “The taxpayers own this ground and this is their fair.”

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What: Dedication for the Livestock Barn 7

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, July 22.

Where: The Jackson County Fairgrounds.

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7 to 10:30 a.m.: Weigh-in/check-in Jackson County carcass barrow and open class breeding show

8:30 a.m. to noon: All horticulture building entries due, open judging to follow closing deadline.

8:30 a.m.: Entry of 4-H cats, show arena

9 a.m. Inside entries for antique and homestead display, antique building

9 a.m. Photography contest the theme is “Entertainment of Days Gone By”, antique building

9 a.m: 4-H cat show, show arena

9 a.m.: 4-H horse and pony show, horse show arena

9 to 11 a.m.: 4-H projects, corn, garden, mini-garden, floriculture, potatoes, plant science, soybeans will be community-style judged at the 4-H building.

9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Food and food preservation entries due in family arts building

9 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Antique farm and homestead display featuring John Deere tractors

9:30 a.m.: Horse and Pony show (riding classes only), horse show arena

10 a.m. to noon: Farm Bureau “members only” exhibits due in Farm Bureau building (sections 1 and 2 and hobby and handicraft)

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: FFA entries accepted for exhibit

10:30 a.m.: All breeding swine divisions penned and registered for Saturday’s swine shows

3 p.m.: Judging of breeding swine, Show Arena 1

6 p.m.: Jackson County Carcass Barrow show, show arena (2018 pork princess crowned prior to swine show followed by the open novice showmanship

7 p.m.: Spurs & Wheels Saddle Club fun show, horse show arena