She might be the youngest fair food service manager in the history of the Marion County Fair, but Hannah Perry, age 20, has a lot of experience when it comes to feeding multitudes.
Last week, Perry supervised sale of chili dogs, nachos, drinks, and many other items to more than 700 people in the 4-H building on the Marion County fairgrounds. The hours were long, often 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., but Perry relied on experience to get the job done.
During the school year, Perry works at Tabor College as head dinner cook, providing evening meals for more than 450 people. But her experience goes deeper than that.
For the past 10 years, Perry and her family — parents Tom and Tam Perry, and siblings Isaac, Jessie, and David, have spent several weeks each summer working at Camp Malibu near Vancouver, Canada.
“My primary job there is always to help in the kitchen,” she said. “I like cooking and working with food.”
At the camp, Perry said, she helped provide 500 meals, three times daily. Service at the Marion County Fair was not quite as intense, and there were benefits of working with friends.
“I like the camaraderie of the 4-H club members that come in to help,” Perry said. “I’ve learned to know a lot of people in 4-H, and it is especially fun to work together, after competing in different projects for a lot of years. This is a fun atmosphere.”
During county fair week, each 4-H club provides help for 4-hour blocks of time.
“It usually goes pretty good,” Perry said. “Probably the most difficult time is when business is slow, but I had a group of junior high boys in here the other day that kept things pretty lively.”
The hardest thing about her fair food service job is knowing what to order beforehand.
“There weren’t good records kept from past years so I just had to kind of wing it,” she said. “I ran out of root beer once, and surprisingly ran out of chili for the chili-cheese dogs and supreme nachos. But I just went home and made some more.”
For 10 years, Perry was a member of the Goessel Goal Getters 4-H Club, where she perfected cooking, sewing, crafts, and horse-training skills. Involvement with 4-H and the county fair goes way back in her family, with her dad a longtime 4-Her from Missouri, and her mom a longtime member of the South Cottonwood club of Hillsboro years ago.
“My Grandpa Penner was also a 4-H club member in his day,” she said. “He even won a 4-H trip to Tunisia and Morocco when he was in his teens.”
Perry’s grandparents are Willis and Ruth Ann Penner of Hillsboro. She said they set a good example for her, and she plans to be back again next year to serve food to Marion County fairgoers.