Nonprofit groups do well with novelty foods at Stanislaus County Fair

Donna Payne makes a Blue Moon Beer float at the Rotary Club booth.  Non profit vendors fared good especially with unique offerings as the fair drew to a close on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Donna Payne makes a Blue Moon Beer float at the Rotary Club booth. Non profit vendors fared good especially with unique offerings as the fair drew to a close on Sunday, July 20, 2014. dnoda@modbee.com

Nonprofit groups did well this year at the Stanislaus County Fair, some raising more money than last year by drawing in customers with novelty menu items.

The money funds community efforts in education, medical treatment for military veterans and church renovations, to name a few.

Turlock’s Rotary clubs teamed up and sold a lot of beer floats, a large scoop of vanilla ice cream paired with dark Guinness and chocolate syrup or orange soda and Blue Moon beer. The volunteers working in the booth said the beer float, without a doubt, was the intriguing novelty pulling in the customers.

“We’re doing exceptionally well,” said Rotary volunteer Mike Rose as he prepared a Guinness beer float, which seemed to do a little better than the Blue Moon. The volunteers attributed the Guinness float’s success to its chocolaty flavor.

The successful fundraising will help the Rotary clubs in a variety of community programs, including several annual scholarships for students in local schools.

“All of it goes right back into the community,” said volunteer Don Gonsalves.

The Rotary volunteers developed these beer float concoctions themselves. Gonsalves said a group of volunteers met one night to try some beer-ice cream pairings and see which ones worked.

The beer floats will return to the Rotary’s list of fair offerings next year. Volunteer Dale Payne said the beer floats might come in some new pairings next year, considering the success they had with them this year.

Nonprofit vendors, like commercial vendors, must hand over 22.5 percent of the money they raise to the fair. It’s less than what vendors pay at other fairs similar in size, said Chris Borovansky, chief executive officer of the Stanislaus County Fair.

The Knights of Columbus changed up their menu this year by adding the Portuguese Corndog, which is a linguiça corndog that provides a spicy kick. The linguiça corndog accounted for about 40 percent of their sales.

Joe Ballas, the group’s financial secretary, said its menu had become a little stagnant over the years. “So, we decided we got to bring something new to the menu,” he said.

The Knights of Columbus typically raises about $8,000 to $10,000 each year at the fair, a mark they were close to reaching Sunday afternoon. Ballas said the money raised will be used to remodel the kitchen at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock.

The money raised at the 4-H Milk Bar will fund student exchange programs with 4-H clubs in other states, student leadership conferences and even a $1,000 donation to the Soroptimist Christmas tree gift drive for needy children. The group was on track to raise $16,000 after paying off its expenses.

But the volunteers from 4-H clubs throughout the county weren’t offering any new items on their menu. They stuck to the well-known favorites, such as the Purple Cow milkshake. The drink consists of vanilla ice cream, milk and boysenberry syrup to give it the signature color.

“I think people keep coming back because of the flavors of our milkshakes and how refreshing they are,” said Molly Delaplaine, a Modesto High School student volunteering as the booth’s manager Sunday.

The students operate the Milk Bar booth, working in shifts around their fair 4-H schedules. The volunteer work provides the students needed experience that will look good on a job application.

Sticking to classics, like cheeseburgers, also worked well for Turlock’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5059. Quality is the key, adding their own spices and secret sauce.

Their chili bowl, a healthy portion poured over Fritos, was also satisfying indulgent fairgoers. “We had it last year, but this year it really took off,” said volunteer Laura Huber.

With its beer garden, the VFW post was expected to raise about $50,000 this year, Huber said. The money will be used to help fund Veterans Affairs medical treatment programs and care packages for troops serving overseas.

“It’s been good every day,” Huber said about their fundraising this year at the fair. “Everything is all well spent.”