One thing that hasn’t changed in the past 50 years is the cotton candy and fresh-cut french fries vendor at the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival.
Once again, Bailey’s Concessions will set up this weekend on Main Street, along with about 400 other vendors from 26 states, according to festival organizers.
“I am always at the cotton candy there on the street right in front of Braden’s candy shop,” owner Betty Bailey said Wednesday.
The 50th Annual Ohio Sauerkraut Festival runs Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in downtown Waynesville.
The festival is considered — along with Kings Island Amusement Park and the Great Wolf Lodge — as a major attraction to Warren County, self-proclaimed as “Ohio’s Largest Playground.”
Festival organizers are prepared for 100,000 visitors or more.
Festival rules now call for local vendors to be nonprofit.
“She’s the only one that’s not a nonprofit that’s local,” said Kelly Miller, director of the Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce and public relations coordinator for Wayne Local Schools.
Bailey’s business is an exception in recognition of its role in starting the sauerkraut balls rolling in 1970.
Betty’s husband, Jim, and Albert “Captain” Stubbs are credited with coming up with and organizing the first one.
Bailey said her husband and Stubbs came up with the idea after the Baileys handled food sales at an auction behind the local funeral home.
They were among five vendors set up along Main Street for the first festival dinner.
“They were just setting up card tables on the street,” she recalled.
The local police chief confronted county officials concerned about health safety, according to Bailey.
The police chief said, “I suggest you get out of town. Don’t come back,” she recalled.
Ever since, Bailey said, festival vendors have followed health codes as the event grew to a full-blown festival, held over two days.
About 60 vendors serve a wide variety of food, including more than 500 pounds of sauerkraut.
“They’ve got everything down to a science,” Bailey said.
Jim Bailey died in 2012.
Betty and her daughter Pat, a retired Springfield-area schoolteacher, continue to operate the company.
“Bailey Concessions has always been our livelihood,” she said. “It’s been a family affair.”
Clay Chester, son of one of Pat Bailey’s students, manages the business, according to Betty Bailey.
For the Baileys, the local festival ends a year of selling concessions around the region, including the Coshocton County Fair, ending Thursday.
This year, Bailey said she planned to leave the food service to employees and “visit” with old friends.
“I turned 90 years old in February. Still going strong,” she said. ““I enjoy seeing everyone. I hope my health holds out and I can enjoy many more.”
For Bailey, the festival holds special significance in light of her late husband’s role in its creation.
“It’s my favorite festival,” Bailey said. “He would never believe it has grown to this extent.”
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