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The Howard County Fair may be canceled, but you can still enjoy some of that classic food this weekend

With many county fairs and summer festivals canceled this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become hard to find one of summer’s favorite treats — fair food.

Where else but on a county fair midway can one find such guilty pleasures as chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, fried Oreos, Italian sausage smothered in peppers and onions, or Krispy Kreme doughnut cheeseburgers?

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Look no further. The Howard County Fairgrounds is hosting a Fair Food Drive-Thru from Friday through Sunday to satisfy those summertime cravings.

“People love fair food and look forward to it once a year,” said Paul Goertze, of Goertze’s Dairy Kone, a family ice cream and fair food service that has been traveling to county fairs since 1967, according to its Facebook page. “The Howard County Fair is a nice summer event. It is a way to give back a little bit of summer.”

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Since the 1980s, the Goertze family has managed the majority of the food vendors used during events at Howard County Fairgrounds, according to Vaughn Turner, general manager of the fairgrounds.

“They are very good to work with,” Turner said. “They make sure we have enough food for all of the events at the fairgrounds.”

There will be four vendors offering such traditional fair food favorites as hand-spun cotton candy and hand-dipped corn dogs.

“New for this year, we are offering three varieties of tater tots,” said Russell Goertze, owner of Goertze’s Dairy Kone. “Bacon and cheese, chili and cheese and what we call ‘garbage tots’ with a little bit of everything.”

The event is designed to be a drive-thru, with people remaining in their cars and ordering off of a paper menu that they will receive at the first ordering station, where they will also pay. They will then advance to a second ordering station, where they again will have the opportunity to order and pay from different vendors. Runners will bring the food to customers’ cars.

“The event will happen rain or shine,” Russell said. “The weather doesn’t have a lot of impact on it. This is not a walk-up event.”

The Goertze family was part of a similar event at Calvert County Fairgrounds. Held over two weekends, the event was well attended despite rain the second weekend, Russell Goertze said. Depending on the crowds the first weekend, a second Fair Food Drive-Thru is tentatively scheduled for the following weekend, which would be Labor Day weekend.

“Our calendar seems to be open and as the second weekend is a holiday, it makes sense to do it,” Paul Goertze said, adding that the family will likely make a decision Saturday morning about a second weekend.

It has been a tough summer for the Goertze family business, Russell Goertze admitted.

“We literally have only two events on the calendar for the remainder of the year, and one is looking shaky,” Russell said. “”We’re all trying to figure out how to pay our bills.”

In July, the Goertze family had their Dairy Kone stand open during the Ellicott City Rotary Club’s drive-in movie events on Friday nights. The ice cream stand was also open, along with Lenny’s Sausage on weekends.

“That was very nice,” Paul Goertze said of the drive-in movies. “We are hoping that will come back. We enjoyed it.”

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A percentage of all sales will be given to the fairgrounds, Russell Goertze said.

Plans are also being made to offer drive-thru fair food events around Maryland, he said. Dates are being scheduled in Charles County and St. Mary’s County, as well as another event in Calvert County.

Howard County Fairgrounds, however, are like a second home to the family, Russell Goertze said.

“I have been at this fairgrounds since I was 4 years old and I’m now 59,” he said. “I’ve seen it grow and I’ve grown. We have a long history here.”

The family hopes the fair food drive-thru will generate funds for both their business and the fairgrounds.

“The fairgrounds are looking for income like all of us,” Russell said. “Hopefully, it is a success.”

The Fair Food Drive Thru will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28; and from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, and Sunday, Aug. 30. For more information, go to howardcountyfairmd.com.

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