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Last Chance Stampede food vendors hope for solid turnout in fair's return

Last Chance Stampede food vendors hope for solid turnout in fair's return
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 19:36:23-04

HELENA — While some will head to this year's Last Chance Stampede to ride the carnival rides, play games, or take in the rodeo, some may be headed to the fairgrounds to grab a bite to eat and with the return of the fair, it's also the return of one of the longer events that local food vendors have to plan for.

Pat Calnan and 202 BBQ from Montana City set up shop at the Stampede for the first time ever and Calnan noted before the fair opened that ensuring they have enough food to take care of their customers may be a challenge.

“Our biggest problem right now is getting the stock. Getting the meats, keeping them stored. Availability and pricing of them is pretty expensive right now," said Calnan. "That's probably our major concern is keeping the materials or getting the materials and stuff that we need.”

Just a few steps away from 202 BBQ sits The Old Fashioned Kettle Corn Co., a Helena staple of two decades run by Dave and Lori Swenson. The Swenson's said by their calculations this year's Stampede would be their 20th and they keep the kettle burning hot because they're happy to provide the community a sweet treat.

“It's more of day-to-day interaction, especially at the farmers market. We have regular customers and we got a lot of comments this year. They were so happy that we were back after the year off last year," said Dave Swenson. "It makes us feel good and makes us that we're providing something to people like.”

Both Dave and Calnan noted their jobs slinging food are just side jobs that they enjoy doing, and with last year's cancellation they have no idea what the turnout will be like, but both noted all they can do is hope for the best.

"It's all over the map. There are some years it's great. There's other years where it's not so great. So it's hard to put a number on it right now," said Swenson.

“Obviously we'd like to cover costs and put some in our pocket. You know, pay the event cover, our meat costs, pay for our labor, other expenses and then you want to have a little bit leftover that so that we can grow,” said Calnan.

Alongside 202 BBQ and The Old Fashioned Kettle Corn Co., other local vendors include Tropical Sno, Spice N Spurs from Dutton, Blue Moose BBQ from Three Forks, and Funnel of Love from Roundup.