The Ottumwa Courier

June 13, 2013

Fixing food for fairgoers a family affair

By CINDY TOOPES
Courier staff writer

---- — ELDON — Among the regulars at the Wapello County Fair, you'll find Dixie and Nathan Paulos, who have been working at the fair for a number of years.

"We're crazy," said Nathan Paulos on Thursday as they moved around in their cooking space in Mary's Midway under the grandstand.

Paulos said the idea to rent the spot under the grandstand and sell food struck him and Dixie both as a good way to make extra money for their daughter's education. The plan worked because she is now a biochemist in a laboratory at South Carolina Medical University.

"She's all done with school, and it's paid," Nathan said. "We're still doing the food, and now we have a new motorhome for vacations. It's in our blood."

The couple also have two food wagons, and they take their portable wagons to the Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races, motorcycle rallies, flea markets and other events during the summer.

By the end of October, Dixie and Nathan put away all the food equipment and go to their daughter's home in South Carolina.

"They don't have Iowa winters there," Nathan said.

After several years of cooking under the grandstand, what do they like the best?

"The people have always been courteous, and they call me by name," Nathan said. "We've been doing this for 30 years in this spot and have seen a lot of people come and go. The Wapello County Fair Board has been nice to us, too."

When Nathan decided to sell his original food wagon, the buyer asked him how much food he should buy for his first event.

"If you've got 5,000 people there and it's a three-day event, you'd better have more than seven cases of tenderloins," he said.

The Wapello County Fair continues through to Sunday. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.wapellocountyfair.com.