Some vendors have been fair mainstays for decades
By Ginny Kropf, correspondent
KNOWLESVILLE – Going to the fair is in the blood of several vendors at the Orleans County 4-H Fair.
Three of them – the Knowlesville/Millville United Methodist churches; Scott Kolassa’s taffy, candy apple and fudge booth; and Schwartz’s waffle, fried dough and deep fried Oreo’s booths have more than a century and a half of combined years attending the local fair.
Scott Kolassa and his wife Michelle took over the business from his dad Sy, who started coming to the Orleans County 4-H Fair more than 65 years ago. They have a second booth, which this week Michelle is running at a fair in Albany, while Scott and children Jack and Lauren are at the Orleans County 4-H Fair.
The family travels the fair circuit from Memorial Day to the end of October in Western New York and Ohio.
The Knowlesville United Methodist Church started selling beef on weck and salt potatoes more than 40 years ago.
“We’ve been doing this at least 40 years that I know of,” said Ruth Higgins, a member of the Knowlesville church.
Since the Knowlesville church merged with Millville United Methodist Church, members of both churches work in their booth.
In the early years, they used to have a booth which had to be put together and taken down each year. Eventually, the fair allowed them erect a permanent booth on the side of Lartz Exhibit Building. They still have to pay the booth rental fee set by the fair annually, Higgins said.
Sylvia Armer, who was working in the booth this week, said the church chose beef on weck after people who had it at their annual Apple Fest were requesting it more often.
Higgins and Lorraine Luckman chair the booth this year.
The beef is ordered from Alabama Holley Farms, who cook and slice 800 pounds. They purchase 1,000 pounds of potatoes from Triple G Farms on the Elba muck and spend all day Sunday scrubbing and cooking them.
The money made at the booth helps with the general budget of the churches, Higgins said.
Selling waffles, fried dough and deep fried Oreos is also a family business, started by Cliff and Susie Schwartz of Naples and run now by their daughter Tracey Bonacci, her husband Chris and children Gage, Garrett and Grace.
The family has been coming to the fair for at least 20 years, always set up in their spot on the corner across from the log cabin.
They love the Orleans County 4-H Fair and Robert Batt, director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, Tracey said.
“When dad had a stroke one year and couldn’t come, they kept his spot here open for him,” she said.
After her dad died in 2016, Tracey said the family wanted to keep the booth going for him.
Tracey said her dad originally started in the 1980s with the Gun City Shows, but went independent many years ago.
She said growing up she was upset when her parents told her she couldn’t do something because they had to go to the fair.
Now she understands what they meant.
“We do about 10 spots in the summer, including Orleans County and the Pike fair,” Tracey said. “But you can’t make any commitments during the summer.”