Now, 500 to 600 cars show up each week for food from Crazy Taters and her parents’ stands, All American Grill and Turkey Time. An acoustic guitarist plays on a flatbed trailer as drivers roll down their windows to accept handoffs of pickle dogs, turkey legs and deep-fried Oreos.
“I started this thinking, if I could just make my rent and my car payment, I’m good with that,” said Ms. Smith Parish, 46. “I didn’t expect this.” She has made nearly as much money as she would have in her typical season at the Iowa State Fair, Tulsa State Fair and Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market, all of which were canceled, though the Farmers’ Market started its own drive-through in early August.
Many vendors aren’t doing as well. Russell Goetze and his two brothers usually tow all five soft-serve trailers for Goertze’s Dairy Kone (their father added the “r” when he founded the business in 1967, to help customers pronounce the name) to six state fairs a year, mostly along the East Coast.
This year, Russell Goetze, 58, has been able to park one Dairy Kone trailer and his sausage stand, Lenny’s, at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Md., selling cones, shakes, corn dogs and sausage sandwiches, but is making barely enough to cover basic bills. “It’s a very trying time,” he said.
The Dallas chef Abel Gonzales said he usually earns 80 percent of his annual revenue in just 24 days in September and October, selling deep-fried foods at the State Fair of Texas. His signature is deep-fried butter: Wrap bread dough around a slab of butter, freeze it and fry it. The dough crisps and the butter liquefies.
“You bite into it, and the butter gets all over the place,” said Mr. Gonzales, 50. “It’s fun.”
Mr. Gonzales is offering a few fair-food items, including fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches, at Cocina Italiano, his restaurant in the city, but he knows the math won’t add up. Last year, the State Fair of Texas pulled in 2.5 million visitors.