Sonoma County Fair fine tunes drive-thru event after deluge of customers
Sonoma County Fair officials are fine tuning their fair food drive-thru event this weekend after a deluge of customers led to three-hour waits last week.
The changes include the addition of two more cash registers, up from three last weekend, so hungry patrons can place their orders more quickly, said Kaitlyn Findley-Thorn, chief operating officer of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Vendors at the event, called the Fair Food Frenzy, will also staff more people to run food out to cars after customers have made their selections, a change that will allow those employees to take more breaks during their shifts, Findley-Thorn said.
“It’s kind of to try to provide them more support so they can keep their energy up,” Findley-Thorn said.
The weekend-only fair food event debuted at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds last Friday, quickly drawing a steady stream of attendees as soon as it opened for business, organizers said. Turnout peaked on Saturday night, when an influx of families and large orders led to three-hour waits, Findley-Thorn said.
As a result of the long lines, fair staff began posting expected wait times at the event’s Bennett Valley Road entrance.
By Sunday night, the end of the event’s first weekend, about 3,100 cars had gone through the drive-thru and staff had served roughly 5,100 corn dogs, 3,400 funnel cakes and 2,400 turkey legs, a fair news release said.
“It was a surprise,” Findley-Thorn said of the turnout for the event. “When we planned this of course we were hoping for a good turnout but it definitely exceeded our expectations.”
Fair staff began planning for the drive-thru last spring, when it became clear that normal fair celebrations would not be possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. They built in precautions to protect customers and employees, including requirements that all staff wear masks and gloves while on the job and that customers remain at their cars and pay for their food all at once.
Customers, who are also told to wear masks when they make contact with employees, are asked to leave the area once they’ve received their food. Those guidelines will remain when the event resumes on Friday and continues through Sunday, operating from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
In addition to the half-dozen food vendors that participated last weekend, Sleek Greek will serve gyros Friday through Sunday. The Cotati-based Pasta King will also run a stand on Friday and Saturday only.
Menus can be viewed at the Sonoma Count Fairground’s website, Facebook or Instagram pages. The event ends Sunday.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.
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