By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – The Exchange Club tasted success June 28 as cars queued up for hours to savor fair favorites during a drive-up carnival food festival at the Lincoln Park Civic Center.
The food trucks, provided by Elliott Amusements of Mason, offered a mouthwatering array of fair food, brought to customers’ cars, in keeping with the pandemic precaution of social distancing.
Sugar-coated elephant ears, along with funnel cakes sprinkled with powered-sugar, were popular items, as was cotton candy, caramel apples, snow cones and freshly squeezed lemonade.
Nachos dripping with cheese also was on the menu, as were Polish sausage, chili cheese fries, hand-dipped corn dogs, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and deep-fried Oreos.
Donna Bartz of Lincoln Park, a long-time carnival attendee, waited in line for an elephant ear and lemonade.
Beldon and LaTonya Penn waited patiently in line for their fair food, despite having a crying 3-year in the back seat with her 3-month-old brother.
LaTonya was looking forward to eating an elephant ear, while Belden was anticipating the taste of Polish sausage.
“I miss all of this because the carnivals are shut for corona,” she said. “So, this is the time to come out and get some of the food.”
Lincoln Park resident Leslie Smith had a list of what she was eager to eat.
“I want an elephant ear, a corn dog, a caramel apple,” she said. “This is nice. I love this. It should be more often.”
LaToya McMichael of Detroit, who brought her 5-year-son, Carter Crispen, to the food festival, also wanted an elephant ear, which she said is why she goes to carnivals, while her son was ready to enjoy french fries, a cheeseburger and a snow cone.
Bill Chase of Elliott’s Amusements, who was handing out menus to people as they queued up in their cars, said he was encountering a lot of happy people, who were willing to wait in their car for more than an hour for a taste of festival fare.
Tammy Ingalls of Lansing, an Elliott’s Amusements employee, who had been busy running orders to cars, said this was the only festival they had worked so far this season, because of the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic.
“We are almost deciding to pack it in,” she said. “The virus is bad, and it is spreading, and we don’t want our employees to be endangered.”
Ingalls said drive-through food fairs are emerging throughout the country, as other events are deemed too crowded, and thus unsafe, and there is no safe or profitable way to bring and operate rides at a carnival.
She said it wasn’t feasible to run rides at 20 percent capacity to socially distance riders, and keeping rides sanitized would be difficult to achieve.
“The carnival business survived through the Depression, and we will survive,” she said. “But it affects all the way to our suppliers in Grand Rapids, ride companies in Italy, our bankers, our insurance – some of it is all still due, and we don’t know when ‘normal’ will be back.”