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Time for fair food: 4-H stand enters 2nd year under new leadership

Barry and Adele White are the committee leaders for the 4-H food stand. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Barry and Adele White, with their daughter Hannah, discuss upcoming plans for the 2017 Pierce County Fair. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
The 4-H food stand is the first stand to open for the fair season, opening with limited hours on Aug. 5 before running from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the fair. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Maintaining a long-standing tradition isn't always an easy task. But through the help of their 4-H family, Barry and Adele White are expecting to continue the tradition of the 4-H food stand as a staple of the Pierce County Fair.

The Whites took over for Cindy and Dennis Baird last year, after they had managed the food stand for the last 25 years. While Barry admitted there are some surprises that came up, he was pleased with their initial year of management.

"For our first year it went super smooth. We had Dennis for the first year to help us out a bit, but the biggest thing was working with the parents and kids. They were so great to work with," Barry said.

Supporting the kids is one of the biggest reasons that the Whites stepped up to head the project. Both have spent years as leaders of the Merri-Heirs 4-H Club, and have been involved with the food stand committee for more than five years.

A reader will begin to feel hungry just reading the variety of foods the stand provides. Pizza, chicken strips, shakes, spaghetti, cheese bread and lemonade only begin to scratch the surface of options available. The always-popular 4-H bottles that are only 50 cents for refills will continue to be a hit with the kids.

"A thing we did for the first time last year was put out a suggestion box. With suggestion boxes you get good and bad responses, but we got a lot of input and implemented that this year," Barry said.

Some of those additions include adding a vanilla shake to the menu, where the popular item only came in chocolate and strawberry flavors in the past. Breakfast items for kids that stay at the fair and early risers will be added to include muffins and cinnamon rolls as additions to the ever-growing menu.

Other minor changes have been made for workers to make the service easier and have greater flow. Alphabetizing the menu so kids can find items quicker, numbering service windows and other simple additions are looking to increase the customer experience through manageable changes.

But one thing is certain: there is never a shortage of hands behind the counter.

"Every club in Pierce County works a shift. The biggest struggle is scheduling, because our 31 trip winners work an additional shift," Barry said.

The trip winners are students who applied for age-specific service learning projects. 4-H assists with the costs for the trip, and in return the workers schedule another shift to assist the food stand.

"The money from the food stand goes to the 4-H Adult Advisors and then they pay for half of the kids' trips. Hearing about their trips is fun, and it's rewarding to know you helped them," Adele said.

"What our food stand brings in during the fair is the basic budget for the year for all activities. That includes dogs (agility), shooting and trips," Barry said.

With such a big responsibility, the Whites put in almost more hours than they can count. Barry estimated the number could be above 150 hours each, with both constantly on the lookout for good deals and preparing for fair week.

Barry and Adele have enjoyed their transition to leadership through the project. Their time seems well spent due to the 4-H members they're supporting.

"I enjoy seeing the little ones, because they really light up when you give them a job or responsibility. Even the smallest job is fun to watch," Barry said.

Adele also appreciates the camaraderie, while being able to get to know the kids and put a face to the ones who have worked so hard on projects around the fairgrounds.

"Pierce County has good communities. We have wonderful kids and 4-H families," Adele said.

The 4-H food stand is the only stand to open the Saturday before the fair. They are open the whole week, and it doesn't cost additional money to come on the grounds to buy food at the stand until Thursday.

The stand transitioned to the full menu on Monday, August 7.

The Whites like to be at the stand for opening and closing every night, while other committee members supervise during the day.

"We're committee leaders, but it takes a good committee to make a foundation. We have great committee members," Barry praised.

The stretch sounds exhausting, but Adele joked that they will be able to find time to sleep the following Monday. She remains excited about the busiest week of the year.

"I always say it's like a big party, but we don't know how many are coming," Adele said.

If you're looking for a place to grab a bite at the fair, there's no doubt the 4-H food stand will be ready to serve, and for a good cause.