DANVILLE – As the Boone County Fair opens for its 80th annual event one thing has changed – the kettle corn vendor Kevin Dalton has been told he can’t sell it this year at the fair.
“We have checked with the carnival people about the popcorn you sell and Mr. Myers said that if you sold popcorn at the fair that they would pack up and leave. So, I’m sorry that you cannot do it this year. Maybe you can think of something else to do instead,” said Boone County Fair President Leona Messer in a letter to Dalton dated July 5, 2013.
Dalton, however, isn’t going away quietly.
“I think what they are doing is wrong and I am considering taking legal action against them,” Dalton said. “They have banned anyone from selling corn dogs, but allow other vendors to sell hotdogs. That’s my point; a corn dog and a hot dog are different. So is kettle corn and popcorn. Why aren’t they banning other vendors from selling hot dogs or drinks? I feel as if I am being singled out unfairly.”
Both kettle corn and plain popcorn are often available at fairs and festivals.
“I have never had this be an issue with the West Virginia Coal Festival or the Boone County Fair in the past. I have been a local vendor at these events for years,” Dalton said.
Most fair officials refused additional comment and said that they must abide by the contract they signed with the carnival company.
Messer said she feels bad about the situation, but has been advised that the fair board must honor the contract this year.
“We will be working hard to find a carnival that doesn’t want these types of exclusive food demands in the contract,” Messer said. “Finding a reputable carnival that meets the criteria and budget we have has been difficult. People have asked us about the carnival that operates during the WV Coal Festival, and we have inquired with them, but they are always booked during that week. We would love to have more options when it comes to carnival services, but this year this is the only deal we could get, and we must have a carnival at the fair.”
The carnival at the fair is Myers Amusements, LLC, located in Mt. Lookout, West Virginia.
Dalton says he has spoken with a lawyer and if the contract is not specific about other food products, like hot dogs and corn dogs or drinks, then he may in fact have a case about kettle corn being a different type of snack than plain popcorn.
“I just think it’s wrong for them not to support the local vendors and stand up to these out of town carnival people,” he said.
Dalton’s wife, Cathy, said one fair official’s husband told her to put herself in the fair board president’s shoes and think of how difficult it is to find a carnival, something that everybody wants or there would not be a fair.
“I told him to put himself in my situation,” she said. “We use the kettle corn business to supplement our income. This winter, Kevin is having surgery on his knees and will miss almost three months work. During that time, he won’t get paid. We are relying on this side business to help us out in our time of need.”
Dalton’s wife post the letter from the fair on her online Facebook page and many posts came in supporting them.
“The board would rather stand by an outside entity than support local Boone County residents,” Steeler Queen posted. “They support a group who comes in from out of town, takes your money for a mediocre thrill and then leave to go make another quick buck elsewhere. Stand up and be heard my proud Boone County residents!”
Kathy Justice White posted, “Why does out of town carnival people have the only say in what our fair sells and doesn’t sell? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”
Others posted they may boycott the fair and some even threatened to have picket lines.
The Daltons said they appreciated the support offered to them by the community.
“I would like to thank everyone for supporting us,” Cathy Dalton said. “It’s times like this that make you realize who your friends are.”
Messer said the board is just honoring the contract and has nothing against the Daltons or their kettle corn.
“I like their kettle corn myself,” she said. “We just have a contract that gives the carnival company some exclusive rights. We will be looking next year to have a carnival and a contract that doesn’t have exclusive food deals in it, but this year our hands are tied and we must honor the contract or else we would not have a carnival.”