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Tom Durkin
Treat Street fills more than bellies
Nonprofits earned $900,000 selling food at last year’s fair
Five thousand ears of roasted sweet corn, 10,000 baked potatoes, 1,200 bagels, 40 tons of rice, 10,000 tacos, 17,000 ice cream cones, 15,000 to 19,000 corn dogs and that’s not counting a ton of beef, 450 pounds of butter and 100 pounds each of cream cheese and lox.

And that’s not all. There’s coffee, slushies, milk shakes, juices, smoothies, lemonade, sodas, tea, milk, beer, wine and water.

Wait, there’s more: pasties and pastries, nachos, all kinds of hot dogs and sausages (kosher, too), burritos, salads, pita falafel, funnel cake, hamburgers (with or without cheese), pulled pork, shredded chicken, pancakes to strawberry shortcakes, BBQ tri-tip steaks, teriyaki, pizza and turkey legs.

Hungry yet?

It’s not the carnival rides, the rodeo, the destruction derby, monster trucks, livestock auctions, or even the floriculture exhibits that is the most popular attraction at the Nevada County Fair in Grass Valley that goes from Aug. 9 through Aug. 13.

It’s the 31 local nonprofit food and drink vendors on Treat Street that fairgoers consistently rank as the most popular attraction at the fair, according to Wendy Oaks, publicist for the fair.

“We’re incredibly proud of Treat Street,” said Rea Callender, CEO of the Nevada County Fairgrounds. “It was created by nonprofits for nonprofits.”

“We really don’t know when it started, Callender admitted. “We looked. We couldn’t find it.”

What they do know for sure, he said, is that the Grass Valley Host Lions Club and the Nevada County Jewish Community Center have been there since the beginning.

Last year, the nonprofit vendors earned $900,000 for themselves. Except for a small vendor’s fee (less than for a commercial vendor) and an agreement to maintain their little patch of “real estate,” Callender reported, “They get to keep all of it.”

“I don’t think we’ll hit $1 million this year, but that’s a goal,” the fair CEO said.

In addition to fostering the income to the nonprofits, “the fair is investing in the amenities of Treat Street,” Callender asserted.

Last year, the fair installed shades over the street itself, he reported. And this year, the Fair is erecting a 20’x50’ shade over tables and chairs for Treat Street eaters.

For many of the Treat Street nonprofits, the fair is their biggest fundraiser of the year, both Callender and Oaks emphasized.

It’s also one of the biggest logistical operations for these organizations.

And that’s especially true if you are one of the most popular food booths on The Street.

Diane Gibbons of the Job’s Daughters corn dog booth is in charge of organizing four shifts of eight trained volunteers every day for six days. (They’re opening a day before the fair officially opens.)

Everything is “hand-made and home-made right in our booth,” Gibbons said with pride.

Although it’s not official, Job’s Daughters are considered by many the best treat of Treat Street. People joke and brag about how long they had to stand in line to buy one.

“Yeah, they have the longest lines,” said C.J. LaCivita of the Gold Country Kiwanis. The Kiwanis have their own reputation for long lines for their fried chicken strips, fried shrimp and French fries.

“We totally redid the exterior this year,” he said. “I hope people still recognize us.”

In an attempt to shorten their long lines, LaCivita said they’ll be cooking with gas on five fryers. He added he has 145 volunteer slots to fill to keep the booth fully staffed during the 13 hours a day the fair is open.

A newcomer to Treat Street this year is Yuba River Charter School. Taitha Killion, treasurer of the Parent Council, said this is expected to be the school’s biggest fundraiser, but since they’ve never done it before, “I have no idea how we’ll do.”

The school is betting they can sell 12,000 turkey legs, along with jumbo pickles, herbal iced tea and sparkling, flavored mineral waters.

While it is not possible to list all the organizations selling goodies on Treat Street, here’s a diverse sampler provided by Oaks and Callender:

• Nevada City Lions – tacos and quesadillas, including kid-sized meals;

• Rough & Ready Fire Department and Protection District – baked potatoes with all the fixin’s;

• Soroptimist International of Grass Valley – Teriyaki rice, orange chicken and veggie rice bowls;

• NEO (new this year) – peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches, and fruit kebabs;

• Nevada County 4-H Council – biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, pancakes, strawberry shortcakes (a crowd favorite) and all kinds of liquids to wash it down with and there’s a salad bar, too;

• SEED (Student Excellence in Education Development) –
tri-tip steak wraps and dinners, and other good stuff to eat and drink
Of the 78 fairs in California, the Nevada County Fair is one of the very few that supports nonprofits’ fund-raising efforts to raise the money they need to provide their services to the community.

“This is one of the ways we give back to our community,” Callender said. “I brag about it to other fair CEOs.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. Contact him at tdurkin@vfr.net or www.tomdurkin-writer.net.16

Submitted by the Nevada County Fair
Treat Street is a popular attraction at the Nevada County Fair, which starts on Wednesday, Aug. 9.