Food booths at county fair serving more than just fine food for causes

Elizabeth Castillo, Reporter


While the fair has many food options available, some food booths serve a greater purpose and provide major fundraising opportunities for local organizations.

When an individual enters the fair, he can see the food booth affixed with a large, Boy Scout hat. This booth, run by the Bakersfield Boy Scout troop 188, serves hot dogs, burgers, and other common fair food, but it also serves as a chance for Boy Scouts to learn various social and business skills.

“The Boy Scouts learn patience, how to interact with the public and cash handling skills [while working the booth],” said Boy Scout parent Les Lee.

Individuals working the booth consist of parents and boy scouts. Lee said that members of troop 188 are required to work at least one shift while the fair runs and the booth is an important tool for raising money.

“The booth is our primary fundraiser,” Lee said. “Other fundraisers include selling popcorn and candy but the booth is how we fund camping trips, summer camp and various activities for the troop.”

The booth has been funding troop 188 for at least 30 years and this year proves no different as Boy Scouts continue to learn valuable lessons. One such Scout, Danny Lommen, 11, has learned important food service skills such as keeping his work station sanitary. He primarily works with customers. Lommen greets guests, helps take orders, and although he has various responsibilities, still enjoys working the booth.

“Working the booth is lots of fun,” Lommen said. “It’s nice to see friends from Scouts and see people I know walking by.”

The Boy Scouts are not the only local organization dependent on fair revenue. The National Order of Trench Rats Dugout 159, the Bakersfield chapter of the national organization, relies heavily on proceeds earned from the fair. The organization is a subsidiary of Disabled American Veterans.

“The fair is how we provide help for vets in Kern County,” said the unofficial manager of the food booth, Fred Powers.

Powers has run the booth for 19 years and its employees are members of dugout 159 and any community volunteers who want to donate their time. Powers said he also sees a large amount of dedicated, repeat-customers who continue to support the booth year after year. He said the fair is one of two annual fundraisers and the proceeds are used to help vets in Kern County in a variety of ways.

“We have drivers four times a week transport disabled vets to the VA Hospital in Los Angeles,” he said. “The money generated at the fair stays here in Kern County.”

Powers said that the revenue also goes toward providing food year-round to the Bakersfield VA clinic and provides turkeys to the clinic during Thanksgiving.

As a veteran, Powers said he supports the mission of the National Order of Trench Rats. He visits vets in hospitals and assists with VA claims for members of Dugout 159. Along with his other work helping disabled veterans, the food booth is an important part of his life.

“This booth has been here since 1952 and it will continue to run as long as I’m alive,” he said.

While dugout 159 specializes in typical fair cuisine and beer, another local organization known for its desserts is also happy to have a booth at the fair. Teen Challenge, a national, Christian-based organization helping individuals overcome drug and alcohol abuse, sells treats such as apple, cherry and peach dumplings to fund its local programs.

“The proceeds stay in Kern County and go toward our one-year, faith-based program,” said Christie Luna, the assistant director for the women’s campus based in Bakersfield.

Luna has worked with Teen Challenge for 25 years and is the creator of all the deep-fried specialties sold at the booth. She said the program has about 125 students currently enrolled and is divided into the women’s campus and a men’s ranch located in Shafter. The program teaches classes on anger management, personal rights, overcoming temptation and love and acceptance of self.

“Drug and alcohol abuse hits every walk of life, so we have a wide spectrum of students,” Luna said.

While Luna manages the booth, its employees consist mostly of students in the program. Luna hopes that employment in the booth helps students with vocational skills.

“The booth is a vocational program,” she said. “Some of our students have never worked a job before while others have been registered nurses or bankers.”

Regardless of the organization, community leaders involved in the food booths are proud to provide for their program and hope to continue generating revenue from the fair.