There are days we want to run off and join the circus. But for now, we’ll settle for hitting up some of the local festivals during the next few months (and the oh-so-bad-but-good-food we crave).
We caught up with Patrick Marsillo, who runs several stands at summer’s popular events to find out what it’s like to own a food stand. He will be at the Buffalo Italian Festival (July 13-16), Canal Fest (July 16-23), Hamburg Burger Fest (July 15) and the Erie County Fair (Aug. 9-20).
Question: How did you get into the concessions business?
Marsillo: My aunt and uncle traveled the east coast with a carnival and their food stands. In my early teens, I would work with the crew and learn all of the ins and outs.
When I was 16, my uncle gave me a small strawberry shortcake stand at the Erie County Fair. I wanted to be more involved, so I purchased a kettle corn stand when I was 20.
When my aunt and uncle were no longer on the road, I would take out their food trailers. I have since purchased them.
Q: Does it ever get hectic?
A: The most stands I will have out at once are five. July and August can get to be pretty tough. August is more of a struggle getting five stands ready for the Erie County Fair.
Q: OK, we are hungry now, so tell us about all the food you serve.
A: I do kettle corn, French fries (ribbons, curly and sweet), fried dough, blooming onions, Hawaiian ice, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, nachos, wraps and quesadillas.
Q: How much kettle corn do you pop for a big event like the Allentown Art festival?
A: I popped around 1,500 pounds of corn in two days between my two locations.
Q: How many kinds of kettle corn do you make?
A: I have a few different flavors — cinnamon toast, mixed berry, jalapeno and white cheddar. I have some new ones for the Fair — chocolate, chocolate caramel and Cajun.
Q: We know the price of food is going up, so Little Buckaroos prices will be $2 this year?
A: Yes. I have had Little Buckaroos at Kiddieland at the Erie County Fair for the past eight years. All items used to be $1, but this year everything will be $2.
Q: Why is food such a big part of the festival experience?
A: The food makes any fair or festival. So many people have their family traditions of going to fairs and festivals to eat all of the traditional foods.
Q: What else can you tell us about the concessions business?
A: I do love being in this business. I am very grateful for my family who have helped me along the way. They are the ones that taught me to work hard. I wouldn't be in this position without them.