Each year at this time since 2003, I have been involved with working at the Western WA State Fair. It humbles and challenges me.
We hire on a couple of hundred seasonal employees, to work during the nearly 3 weeks that the Fair is in operation. It takes a month of planning, deciding on new concepts and recipes. Then comes the budgeting process in which the management and hourly employee labor strategy is finalized along with a determination of our menu item costs and selling prices.
Then I source out equipment that is always being repaired and retrofitted or replaced. Before I have a chance to realize that it is almost Labor Day, the vast majority of my summer has disappeared to hours on the phone and computer making sure hundreds of details are taken care of. It is a daunting task and I am glad there are only a few dozen food and beverage concessions under my control. This year, the Puyallup Fair begins on Friday the 5th of September and averaging 16-18 hours a day, running between operations on cement, the days seem to all meld together.
Fortunately I am blessed with having the same management team since I took over. Without them, I'd be hard pressed to return, as I count on them and vice versa … for sheer survival. The volume that we achieve during the Fair, would equate to far more than even the highest annual volume grossing restaurant in the USA. Fortunately the duration is somewhat short. But the amount of hours with no days off and little sleep between the days, makes this an endurance test that many fail. We typically have 20% turn over during the Fair. People can't handle the sheer number of hours, or it is the cement that destroys their will and affects their feet or lower back, and occasionally it is because they find that having so many people come through their operations every day is something they just choose not to deal with.
The good news for me is that I get to head to Portugal just 2 days after we finish "tear down" once the Fair ends. Unfortunately that leaves me no time to recover, but I have gotten used to this annual tradition. After sitting in front of a computer and tasting great wines, Port and Madeira the rest of the year, this 10 week project brings me back to earth and helps me to appreciate the great part of what I do the rest of the year.