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Folks brave the heat for a taste of summer normalcy

A sweltering 102-degree day couldn’t keep people from the Jackson County Expo this weekend to get their fix of funnel cakes and sausage dogs.

The “Fair Food Frenzy,” as its been dubbed, is the second such event hosted this summer by local food vendors, who at this time of year would typically be serving throngs of people amidst a cacophony of fair rides, games and livestock auctions. Now, they’re serving a much smaller, masked crowd, eager for the taste of curly fries and normalcy.

Mat Wells, owner of Hawaiian Teriaki, said it felt good to offer people fair food during the pandemic. Hawaiian Teriaki is new to the “Frenzy,” but not the fair circuit.

Wells said he’s been traveling to dozens of local fairs for more than 30 years, but said COVID-19 put a dent in his business this summer. He went from serving 24 fairs to one.

“This is our income, so to have everything lost is a little bit difficult,” Wells said.

Tess and Frank Grooms, Central Point residents, said they were happy to come down to the Expo to help local vendors.

“I thought it was an innovative way to keep people coming back,” Tess Grooms said, adding she would like to see the “Frenzy” become a weekly event, For Grooms it’s also a good way to keep cool.

“I think shaved ice is definitely in the cards for the heat,” she said.

Marsha Watkins, owner of Rainbow Hawaiian Shaved Ice said the number of people filtering into the Expo’s Central Point parking lot grew since Friday when the event started, adding that “Fair Frenzy” had been helping advertise her business.

“It helps get the word out,” Watkins said.

Fair food has also helped restore a sense of normalcy during the pandemic, according to Phoenix resident J.C. Brown. He said he’s come to the Jackson County Fair almost every year and was happy vendors could still provide a taste of the fair experience.

“It’s a slice of Americana,” Brown said. “It’s good comfort food.”

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneDaryl Whicheleo prepares a sausage dog at the Jackson County Expo Saturday afternoon.