YOUNGSTOWN — The sweet smell of funnel cakes and other fair foods is filling the air once again in Ohio.
The event is a way to support The Apple Cart and other vendors, who have had a tough time during the pandemic with many festivals and fairs across the country canceled due to COVID19 restrictions.
Bary Bunts, The Apple Cart’s owner, was born into the concession business.
“My parents started this business in 1955 before I was born,” he said.
Since then, the booth’s been a staple at the Canfield Fair and Bunts knew he had to keep the business going after his father passed away unexpectedly.
“At some point I just bit the bullet, I guess is the phrase, and said, ‘Well, I guess this is gonna be my career. For better or worse, I’m gonna be in the concession business,’” Bunts said.
He’s been heading The Apple Cart since 1996.
“They’re family recipes that I inherited and we haven’t changed anything,” Bunts said. “And people just know our product and they come back and get it every year. And we’re grateful for that.”
He dipped a fresh batch of old-fashioned cinnamon candy apples for his hometown customers coming to enjoy during the Taste of the Fair.
“When I will train someone new to do it, sometimes they will get blisters on their fingers from making candy apples,” Bunts said.
That’s why after Bunts dips and twists each apple, Rich Olson wraps each one in cellophane.
“It’s fun,” Olson said. “It’s like a different canvas every week. I mean, it’s got the same four walls, but a different atmosphere. Different people.”
The team is thankful for the opportunity to treat folks once again after the coronavirus outbreak pulled the plug on fairs and festivals nationwide.
“At this time of year last year I didn’t know if I was gonna have any work,” Bunts said.
He said they managed to make it through the year supported by COVID-safe twists on traditional events and a strong following of customers. The impact of the Bunts family tradition was on full display when someone requested some apples on social media after their local fair was canceled.
“The next event we worked, I sent her some and I got a thank you card in the mail,” Bunts said. “I mean, for sending somebody some candy apples. I’m sorry, I get a little emotional. Because to me, it’s just a candy apple. But it’s obviously more than a candy apple to some people. It’s their annual tradition when they come to the county fair, the state fair.”
He’s proud to sprinkle some nostalgia in people’s lives.
“People find their favorite and they go back to that vendor year after year,” he said. “So, it makes you feel good.”
The Taste of the Canfield Fair is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, May 16.
The 175th edition of the Canfield Fair will be held from Sept. 1 - 6.
Fair administrators said it’s the largest county fair in the state and third largest in the nation.