Mini Donuts

Brynn Harman of Medford chomps on a mini donut from Tom Thumb’s — one of the Steele County Free Fair’s most loyal and beloved food vendors — during Dairy Days in June. Food vendors will be returning once again to the Steele County Fairgrounds for Food Fest, a drive-thru only event. (Press file photo)

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Steele County Free Fair staff has altered the upcoming Fair Fest to be a drive-thru only event, renaming it Food Fest.

“We couldn’t meet the state guidelines for outdoor gatherings,” said Fair Manager Scott Kozelka, adding that the hardest requirement to meet was ensuring that there would not be more than 250 people on the grounds at a given time. “There’s been a lot of excitement with the people in the community and in our county that we were doing something, though, so instead of just canceling we all put in a lot of hours to try to make something still happen.”

The event, which begins Friday, will showcase up to 15 food vendors laid out in what is being called the “Food Fest Trail” throughout the fairgrounds. The trail will start at the south end of the fairgrounds on the corner of Hartle Avenue and 18th Street and a map plus vendor menus will be given upon entering the grounds. In true nature of the Steele County Free Fair, there will be no fee to enter the trail.

The most important element that Kozelka stresses is there will be no walk ups allowed during Food Fest. Patrons are to stay in their vehicles and someone will come take car-side orders at each vendor stand.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work from all our fair directors, staff, volunteers, and vendors to pull this off,” Kozelka said. “But our vendors are excited to service our residents of Steele County. I know we can get it done and everyone can have a good time.”

Kozelka said he has been working closely with Steele County Public Health, Steele County Emergency Management and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office to guarantee the safest possible experience for attendees to Food Fest.

“We are meeting all the social distancing guidelines now, so we ask that you come with both a smile and patience and leave with your bellies full and even bigger smiles,” Kozelka said. “Then go home, take a nap, and come on back.”

For more information on Food Fest and which SCFF vendors will be represented, keep an eye on the SCFF social media.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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