ANGELICA — It will be the end of an era when the Genesee Valley Central School’s senior class food stand closes its doors at the end of the Allegany County Fair week.

Fair food isn’t just deep-fried Oreos and sausage and pepper sandwiches. At the Allegany County Fair countless generations of high school seniors have earned money toward their senior trip and high school graduation gear by working in their school’s food stands.

At the fair there are permanent stands for the Friendship and Bolivar-Richburg school districts, but the granddaddy of them all is the Genesee Valley stand, which started as the Angelica Central School stand. It continued the tradition when the Belmont and Angelica schools merged several years ago.

Today it is manned by students hailing from both villages, and while it was once just the domain of high school seniors, in recent years students from lower grades have pumped up the staff. It takes 15 students to run one of the two shifts scheduled each day.

Linda Warner, who has been a school receptionist for the last 37 years and is one of the advisers watching over the daily operation of the food stand, said, “This is the last year for the senior stand. Next year we will open it as the Genesee Valley School Stand.”

It seems that it is getting harder and harder to get volunteers from the senior class.

“It is too easy for parents to write checks for the cost of graduation materials and the senior trip rather than having the students earn it for themselves,” Warner said.

In recent years organizers have taken volunteers from lower grades and in 2022 the stand staff will be comprised of high school students from freshmen to seniors.

For students like JT Frawley of Angelica, working at the fair food stand has “been kind of exciting,” he said.

The junior has a couple of years of experience under his waiter apron and said that if he wasn’t working at the stand he would probably be doing nothing.

Warner said there are lots of changes in the stand this year with customers having to social distance and constant wiping down of tables and more. But the students are still gaining valuable experience — learning people skills and how to deal with customers. The students learn about kindness and respect, camaraderie, teamwork and responsibility.

“They know they have to come in because if they don’t it puts a stress on the rest of us,” she said.

This year, the original thought was that the stand would be for carryout only with tables in the back. That changed after the first day when customers complained that the reason they come to the stand is to meet up with old friends and classmates.

“So, our organizer, Heidi Musingo, found a way to make it work under social distancing regulations,” Warner explained.

For students, along with the benefit of earning money and learning how to work in a real-life situation, working at the food stand is a rite of passage. Each year students are invited to write their name on the building. Even years afterward alumni search the walls and ceiling looking for their names and the names of their classmates.

Karen Tripp, president of the fair board, praised the student-run food booths.

“I think they are great for the kids,” she said. “They learn a lot. I worked in the Bolivar-Richburg stand when my kids went to school there. We had a wonderful time and they learned so much.”

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