Finding job at food stand is fair business

Karissa Yoder, granddaughter of Little Richard’s owner Richard Thomas, was helping seek out potential food stand employees for the upcoming Delaware State Fair on Monday.(Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Karissa Yoder, granddaughter of Little Richard’s owner Richard Thomas, was helping seek out potential food stand employees for the upcoming Delaware State Fair on Monday.(Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

HARRINGTON — Working inside a food stand at the Delaware State Fair might sound like a carnival full of fun for a week or so.

But when it comes down to it, it’s not a job for the faint of heart.

The state fair does offer a unique work environment: Customers come from all kinds of backgrounds. And there’s a stunning backdrop at night, with the glow of the lights and excitement of the midway rides not too far away.

But when an individual applies to work for a local company such as the legendary Little Richard’s during state fair week, they’d better be prepared to learn from some of the best in the business, stand for long hours, and deal with mid-summer heat.

Food options will be plentiful at this year's Delaware State Fair. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Food options will be plentiful at this year’s Delaware State Fair. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Dover-based Little Richard’s, which has been in the state fair food business since the early 1950s, was hiring on Monday afternoon for this year’s Delaware State Fair at the Harrington Fairgrounds, which runs from Thursday until July 30.

Richard Thomas is the owner of Little Richard’s. Bob Thomas, one of Richard’s five children, and Karissa Yoder, one of his granddaughters, were overseeing the hiring process Monday as food stands were put into place and everything was being prepared for Thursday’s big opening.

“Generally, it usually is pretty hard to find people who want to work throughout the week, but we’ve been (at the Delaware State Fair) for such a long time that we have a pretty good following,” Bob Thomas said. “Locally, I think we hire somewhere between 10 and 15 people, plus we have other people who work year-round full-time with us.”

Mr. Thomas had some words of advice for aspiring fair food industry workers.

“Prepare to be hot, but it’s a good time,” he said. “It definitely is not boring. Very few people say they were bored with the job when they’re done.”

Ms. Yoder said when the Delaware State Fair rolls up on the calendar every July it’s like a family reunion.

he giant puzzle that is the Delaware State Fair was starting to become more clear on Monday afternoon, with food stands being moved into place and several rides pieced together. The 97th annual state fair begins on Thursday and runs until July 30. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

he giant puzzle that is the Delaware State Fair was starting to become more clear on Monday afternoon, with food stands being moved into place and several rides pieced together. The 97th annual state fair begins on Thursday and runs until July 30. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

It helps to have so many familiar hands preparing all kinds of foods ranging from the donut burger, to Polish sausages, barbecue and this year’s Little Richard’s state fair special – the barnyard burger.

The barnyard burger consists of a half-pound of hamburger, two eggs and a haystack full of onions on top.

“We have many returning people out here filling out paperwork. We have already hired three or four people that are returning,” Ms. Yoder said. “We get a lot of kids that come out, especially those that are about on their way to moving away (from home).

“Every now and then we’ll get a whole stand’s worth of people who are coming back. We’re a big family. Plus, there are always two family members in a stand, at least.”

That’s a lot of family members, especially considering that Little Richard’s will have 10 food stands scattered throughout the state fair, including spots down Chambers Road, Shaw Avenue and Williams Street. About 40 employees will staff the entire operation.

Harrington’s Chris Vicidomini has done this before. He’s looking forward to getting the chance to do it again.

“I worked with Little Richard’s before. They’re a good company to work for. I got paid well,” he said. “I worked the barbecue pit the last time and I hope to do that again this year – stick with what you know, right?”

Vicidomini had some advice for some of his friends who were filling out applications on Monday.

“Just be there ready to work. The day goes pretty fast,” he said.

Little Richard's was hiring Monday for the entire length of the fair. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Little Richard’s was hiring Monday for the entire length of the fair. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Michael Vasbinder, of Harrington, was waiting to get called over for an interview under a tent in sweltering heat on Monday.

“I need the money, plus I need job experience to get other jobs,” he said. “I’ve never done this. It’s probably going to be hectic, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Jeremy Reynolds was another teenager from Harrington trying to make a little bit of spending cash off the fair.

“I’m just looking forward to having a job and earning some money,” he said. “I think a job at the state fair will definitely be hot – and really busy.”

Ms. Yoder could tell him all about it.

After all, she works full time for the family business and travels 11 months out of the year to fairs. It all starts in January in West Palm Beach, Fla., and winds its way through roughly 27 stops and nearly 60,000 miles up and down the East Coast.

“Generally, we open up on a Thursday through Saturday usually, so (the food stands) are set up that whole week before for a 10-day spot,” Ms. Yoder said. “Then we close on the following Sunday and drive and move on to the next one.”

She does admit though, this week’s stop is a little more special than the others.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.