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Extra days off turn Red River Valley Fair vendors into vacationers in Fargo-Moorhead – InForum

Extra days off turn Red River Valley Fair vendors into vacationers in Fargo-Moorhead – InForum

WEST FARGO – The Red River Valley Fair’s transition from 10 consecutive days of events to three weekends has created an interesting dynamic for the vendors who provide food and entertainment to fairgoers.

Under the new format, the fairgrounds will become a ghost town Monday through Wednesday when the attraction’s gates will close. The change gives traders a rare opportunity to take a break between busy weekends. Some explore the city, others relax in their camp.

“I could never work in an office,” says Genevieve Reindl, an employee at Miller Concessions, a vendor that spends seven months each year traveling to various fairs in the Midwest to sell classic fair food like corn dogs, hot dogs, cheese curds, lemonade and French fries.

She said that moving from trade fair to trade fair allowed her to get to know new environments and meet different people.

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The food vendor area at the Red River Valley Fair on Friday morning, June 28, 2024.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

Although Reindl enjoyed the free time, she said, she wanted to “get to work.”

“Our bosses give us time off and that’s enough for me,” she said.

She says she spends her free days relaxing, walking around the fairgrounds and looking at the animals.

During the fair, she also visited the Marines booth, where she won a T-shirt by completing four minutes of plank. Reindl said some of her colleagues participated in the rides and concerts.

Ben Wondra, manager of Miller Concessions, said he likes the Red River Valley Fair’s new schedule because it allows him flexibility in his schedule.

Ben Wondra, manager at Miller Concessions, at the campground where employees stay during the Red River Valley Fair.

Ben Wondra, manager at Miller Concessions, at the campground where employees stay during the Red River Valley Fair.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

“I don’t normally have a vacation, so this is very strange,” he said.

Wondra said he spends his extra free time visiting downtown areas, trying new restaurants and seeing what each city has to offer.

Wondra said employees usually have two days off between shows and spend the time doing laundry, grocery shopping and relaxing. Most supplier companies provide vans for their employees to do their shopping, he said.

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Some of the many food vendors and a dining area at the Red River Valley Fair before its opening on June 28, 2024.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

With the extra free time during the Red River Valley Fair, Miller Concessions planned to host a barbecue for its employees on Wednesday.

Wondra said he also wanted to offer activities to his employees. He said some went bowling and others visited the Red River Valley Zoo.

“We do a lot of small towns, so often there’s no big metropolis,” he said. “Usually it’s just two local bars and that’s it.”

Despite being located in a metropolitan area, many employees prefer to spend their free time near their accommodations at the campsites on the outskirts of the fairgrounds, Wondra said.

Employees of Miller Concessions, a mobile food company that caters to fairs, festivals and special events, each have a private spot in a trailer parked in a campground at the Red River Valley Fair.

Employees of Miller Concessions, a mobile food company that caters to fairs, festivals and special events, each have a private spot in a trailer parked in a campground at the Red River Valley Fair.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

Since the traders’ accommodations are small, many spend their time outside barbecuing, playing music, chatting, cleaning and relaxing.

Miller Concessions provides housing for its employees – mostly single-family homes in mobile homes.

“Our sleeping barracks are beautiful,” says Reindl. She likes the size of her accommodation and has everything she needs.

Miller Concessions employees each have a private sleeping space in a trailer.

Miller Concessions employees each have a private sleeping space in a trailer.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

Reindl is from South Africa and travels to the United States for about eight months each year to work at Miller Concessions. She saves her earnings to send home to her mother.

“I’m just supporting my mother,” she said.

Reindl said some of her colleagues are supporting much larger families. She has about forty colleagues from Mexico, Honduras, Lithuania and South Africa who have found work in the United States on H2-B visas.

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Edwin Ortiz (right) and Elias Raymundo spent part of their day off from work at the Red River Valley Fair relaxing in the shade of the employee campground on July 8, 2024.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the H2-B visa allows foreign workers to perform temporary non-agricultural jobs.

“In 2019 I was in South Africa and had problems,” said Reindl.

She said she worked as a beauty specialist in South Africa before her friend gave her the idea of ​​working as a trade show salesperson in America.

Reindl’s girlfriend worked as a carnival vendor in the United States before she decided to get married and return to South Africa. When her girlfriend moved back home, she offered Reindl the opportunity to replace her as a carnival vendor.

Reindl said there are only a limited number of H2-B visas and she was lucky to get one.

“I took her place,” she said. “I was lucky.”

Miller Concessions will be working at the Red River Valley Fair the last weekend of July 11-14, then packing up and heading to the North Dakota State Fair.

“I love this kind of work because I see a different location every week,” says Reindl.

Through her time on the streets, she has become closer to traders and other people who are looking for better opportunities for themselves and their families, she said.

“We are a family,” she said.

Mary Anderson

Makayla Anderson is an intern at Forum Communications. She was born and raised in Bismarck, ND and lives on a farm 20 miles east of Bismarck. Makayla is currently attending Concordia College studying English Writing with minors in Business and Journalism. She plans to graduate in spring 2025. When she’s not working as a reporter, she enjoys reading, playing basketball, and painting.