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Fonda Fair gets off to a sizzling start

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Michael Keier, left, Aschley Peters and Kylee Zierak, 6, of Broadalbin, take a ride on the Sizzler at the Fonda Fair on Tuesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Michael Keier, left, Aschley Peters and Kylee Zierak, 6, of Broadalbin, take a ride on the Sizzler at the Fonda Fair on Tuesday.

— It was a very hot Tuesday afternoon.

But for Jerry Walborn of Elmira, heat or no heat, it was business as usual.

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said, as he stood by the grill at his food stand, with the steam rising and wafting toward him. “What else am I supposed to do. It’s too late to do anything else.”

Walborn, who is the owner and founder of Jerry’s Lunch, loves what he does, although he has a sense of humor when describing why he keeps doing it.

For 49 years, Walborn has had a stand at the annual Fonda Fair. His son also worked the grill, as sausages, hamburgers, onions, peppers and steak were grilled side-by-side, sharing the same space like colors mixing on an artist’s palette.

The fair, which started Tuesday and will run until Labor Day, is filled with rides and plenty of fried dough.

There were activities ranging from Ferris wheel rides to chocolate milk and gyros to consume.

For the person who likes to eat steak and then go look at cows to appreciate them, the fair is the perfect place to do so.

The fair — in its 173rd year — on Tuesday appeared to be well-attended.

Thomas Sommerville has been working as a game operator for 25 years. As an employee of C. Ward Concessions, he’s been at the fair for 14 years. From South Carolina, Sommerville comes up for the summer, earns what he can, and saves. During the wintertime, he does home improvements.

Sommerville’s father worked at fairs too, setting up and taking apart rides. For a while, Sommerville also set up and took down rides, but he eventually returned to operating games. On Tuesday, he was at a stand where a person could win a picture of characters like Spider-Man or Bart Simpson, or maybe a clock with an image of someone like basketball star LeBron James. The game was to pop balloons by throwing darts at them. Kids who simply tried automatically received a picture of their choice.

Sommerville still enjoys working as game operator, even though it can be hard when fairs get rained out.

“You have to take the good with the bad,” he said as he stood in the shade where the stand was located.

Janet Glasser of Johnstown has been going to the Fonda Fair for 45 years. She was with her family, including her three grandchildren, two of whom are 7 and the oldest 12.

They have a plan when coming to the fair. They first check out the animals, then they try the rides. Then they eat and go back and try the rides again.

“The scarier the better,” Glasser said with a smile. “I’m trying to get my grandkids to do scary.”

 
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