Serving up fair food since 1957: Ruritan Club volunteers man fair food stand to support community
FRONT ROYAL – For over 60 years the smell of hot dogs, french fries and barbecue have greeted fairgoers as they’ve stood in line at the Cedarville District Ruritan Club’s food stand at the Warren County Fair. While the menu has changed over the last six decades, the club’s mission has not: serve good food for a good purpose.
Cedarville District Ruritan Club President Maurice Bowen, of Front Royal, said the civic organization’s mission is also to help improve the community and build a better America through fellowship, goodwill and community service projects.
“Unlike other civil organizations, Ruritan rarely has national programs,” Bowen said. “Instead, we strive to make our local community the best it can be.”
The Ruritan Club has been serving up fair food since the fair’s inception in 1957. Bowen recalled fond memories of spending time as a child behind the counter with his father as well as the various musical acts and live entertainment he has seen over the years.
“When the fair was first sponsored by the Jaycees in the late 50s it was known as the Warren County Agricultural and Industrial Fair,” Bowen explained. “And naturally, because the Ruritan, sometimes known as the Rural Rotary, is big into agricultural, it made sense for the organization to be involved.”
The fair has undergone many changes over the years. As one of the last remaining local food stands, Bowen said he likes to think the community supports the Ruritan because of their continued efforts to aid the community and serve local needs.
Mack McComas, of Front Royal, has the longest standing attendance record for any member of the club. He remembers working beside Andy Guess at the grill grilling hot dogs and hamburgers long before there were any other food vendors.
“Of course, the fair has changed over the years, everything eventually does,” said McComas. “But our mission has not. If someone is going through something, as an organization we’re here to help.”
Through fair days, which began Monday and conclude Sunday, Bowen said the club would serve upward of 10,000 people.
“The busiest days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “Typically, the line stretches for as far as the eye can see.”
During the busier days, six to eight volunteers will serve hungry fairgoers and workers.
“Our club is small, about 12 members, so we’re fortunate enough to get help from members within our district – known as the Rappahannock District, which is made up of 26 clubs, eight youth clubs, which totals to over 900 members,” Bowen said.
Volunteers work from 5 p.m. until closing time each night.
Much of the proceeds benefit scholarships, Bowen noted.
“We profit anywhere between $8,000 to $10,000 each year. And we only pocket a small amount for our reserves,” he said.
Two scholarships of $1,000 are awarded to Warren County and Skyline High School graduates each May. The group also gives financial support to C-CAP, the Salvation Army and St. Luke’s Clinic, all in Front Royal. The club also works closely with local chapters of FFA, 4-H and other organizations that serve youth needs.
On the menu at the club’s stand are hamburgers, nachos, half-smokes and ice-cold beverages.
“For many of us, it’s about helping the community,” Bowen said. “Because at the end of the day, serving our community is what we all do best. It’s what matters most.”