The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee means more to Karan Bowsher than just a typical weekend. Bowsher has been around fairs for the majority of her life and has made her living selling T-shirts and food at fairs and other large events all over California.
With the annual Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee canceled due to COVID-19, Bowsher tried to figure out a way to still give a piece of the fair to those who are clamoring for any bit of normalcy.
And while Bowsher doesn’t have rides, frogs or live music, she does have the ability to replicate one of the most popular and coveted items found at any fair: food.
On Saturday afternoon, Bowsher and her team of teenage helpers, set up shop in the parking lot of the fairground and sold corn dogs, cotton candy, sodas, facemasks and T-shirts to people in their cars.
“This was supposed to be the Saturday of the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, which is an amazing event in our community,” Bowsher said while dipping a dog in batter and moving it to the fryer. “Sadly, because of COVID-19, it is not. So, we are bringing fair food to people.”
All workers were wearing custom T-shirts, gloves and facemasks. The facemasks, which were for sale and sold out early, had a green jumping frog in the middle. Bowsher and her husband, Michael, own Black Diamond Graphics and can create custom facemasks with any desired logo.
However, what was most desired was food. Cars lined up to get their fix of fair food and Bowsher was happy to oblige.
“This means a lot to me,” she said. “I’ve been a part of this fair and other fairs across California my entire life. I was born into the fair industry and my heart is breaking as fair after fair is being canceled. The Calaveras County Fair is special. It’s different than other fairs. It’s a true community event where everybody comes together.”
Roark and Elizabeth Weber, of San Andreas, were two customers who were out cruising for a Saturday afternoon lunch and they did so in style. With Roark sitting behind the wheel of his 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 — which he’s had for 25 years. He and his wife got their corn dogs and soda, parked in the shade, and ate on the bumper of the classic car.
“Our daughter reminded us that they were doing something out at the fairgrounds; and it’s been such a disaster that we don’t have the fair this year, so we figured we’d come out here and have a little fun and get a corn dog,” Roark Weber said. “My wife loves corn dogs, that’s why we are here. But really, we just want to support these folks.”
One of the teenagers who was helping serve was Calaveras High School senior Muriel Strange. Although she’s missing out on her final fair experience before heading off to college in the fall, Strange is glad she got the opportunity to help make an impact in a stranger's day.
“I’m just happy to be out here to serve the community and cheer people up,” Strange said. “I know that it’s a hard time for a lot of people.”
Cars continued to roll into the parking lot for a quick drive-through lunch. But this isn’t the only time Bowsher sells food to those who have a hankering for something fried. Every Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Bowsher sells corn dogs, soda and cotton candy in West Point.
While serving fried food is nothing new to Bowsher, Saturday’s event was a little extra special, given how much the community misses its annual fair.
“I wanted to see people happy and I wanted to see people excited about something and that’s what I’m seeing and I love it,” Bowsher said. “Our community misses the fair and if this is just a little, tiny way that we can give a little bit of that experience back, well, that makes me really happy.”