For neighborhood residents Carolyn and Bill Newport, the State Fair is more than fun.
The Newports have worked at the fair since 1973, when they began helping Carolyn’s mother, Beulah Wheeler, with her food stands. In 1978, Carolyn and Bill took over the concession business and have been operating Newport Concessions since. They have several booths and sell everything from sausage-on-a-stick to nachos to chocolate nut bars.
“We saw the opportunity that was there,” Carolyn says. “Mother had a background in it. I had been in it so long.”
Beulah started working at the fair in 1947, when she and Carolyn lived across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue. Over the years, Beulah worked game booths and food booths, Carolyn says.
In 1973, Bill designed and built a large hot dog cooker for Beulah, which allowed the family to more quickly and efficiently sell hot dogs. Since then, Bill has designed and built most of the supplies used in their stands.
“To make our business survive and thrive, we believe you have to put a percentage back into your business,” Carolyn says. “A lot of us devote something to the fair business every day.”
This year, Bill built new floors, condiment stands and installed new plumbing. It takes the Newports a month to set up, and three days to break down. Once the fair starts, either Bill or Carolyn are on the grounds at all times.
“It makes you feel like a kid,” Carolyn says. “Every October, I feel like a kid. It’s the hardest work you can imagine, because the hours are so long. But it’s worth it. You make people so happy, and it’s such a tradition.”
Carolyn also serves as vice-chair of the Junior Livestock Auction Committee at the State Fair. Each year, she encourages concessionaires to pool their money to purchase the reserve grand champion steer, which can bring in about $15,000. The money is used for scholarships.
“It’s very family-oriented,” Carolyn says of the fair. “More than ever. Where else can you go for an entry fee of $8 and see a show like Clint Black and all the exhibits and all the free acts?”
The State Fair runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 22 at Fair Park. It is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Tickets are $8 for adults; children under four feet tall and senior citizens are $4. Children younger than two are free.
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