Home Featured Kenton’s Buerger family’s waffles a fixture at the fair

Kenton’s Buerger family’s waffles a fixture at the fair

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Waffle legacy
Members of the Buerger family (from left) Gary, Karen, Brandon and John stand outside their trailer on the Hardin County Fair midway with a bench dedicated to the memory of their mother, Barb, who worked at the business when it started in 1932. The powdered sugared waffles continue to be a traditional stop for many families attending the local fair, said John.
Times photo/Dan Robinson

Few businesses who offer their products at the Hardin County Fair have become more of a family tradition than the waffles stand on the midway.

Three generations of the Buerger family have used their vacations and weekends to keep the customers satisfied with their product.

The legacy of the business began in 1932 when John Buerger’s aunt and uncle Levon and Russell Powell started selling the sugar-coated batter at an event in Coshocton and then expanded to open a tent at Cedar Point.

“At that time, Cedar Point was just some tents on the beach,” said John.

The sugar waffles were considered a treat in the Depression, he said.

They sold them to visitors to the beach and at festivals for five cents each.

Helping her older sister once school was out was Levon’s youngest sister, Barb.

At the age of 12 and the youngest of nine children, Barb enjoyed the waffle business so much it became a part of her life.

In the 1940s, the waffle business expanded to the point that the family was making them available at a dozen county fairs.

John said he isn’t sure exactly when the Buerger family started selling waffles at the Hardin County Fair, but knows they were a part of the midway by the 1950s.

He, along with his brother, Gary and sister, Karen spent many hours with their mother at fairs and festivals throughout the state.

Their father was normally busy with farm work or on the job at Rockwell in Kenton, so the kids went with mom from an early age.

“Gary was six months old when he went to his first fair,” Karen said.

It was a different world then, said John.

“We grew up on the midways and at the age of six or seven, we could run around with our friends without our parents.”

The business had expanded to include cotton candy and candied apples by then, he said, and in 1982, John, along with Karen and Gary, purchased the business and added a pizza trailer which is located next door and operated by Gary and his son, Brandon.

The business is now called KJG Buerger Concessions.

John graduated from Kenton High School and later from Urbana College.

He is an auditor/processor for Kohl’s Department Store and continues to work in the trailers at festivals on the weekends and at five county fairs during his vacation time.

While fairs in general have changed, he said, some things about his waffle business have been consistent over the years.

The secret to the family’s business success is they purchase quality oil in which they cook the waffles.

“We use premium corn oil,” he said.

“We could buy the cheaper stuff, but we think the oil adds a lot to the flavor.”

“We spend more on the customers because they expect that. We are not going to let them down by going the cheap route.”

The trailers’’ location have remained the same since John and his siblings explored the fairgrounds in their youths.

“We are pretty much anchored here halfway between the main gate and the grandstands,” he said.

Another constant is the people who assist the Buerger family operate the stands at each of their fairs, said John.

“Vicki Brown was our neighbor when we were growing up and she helps us here,” he said and the same crew has been a part of the family within their family throughout the fair season.

Many have been with them for 20 years or more, said John.

“It’s like a family reunion,” he said.

“We have second and third generations of people helping us as a part of our extended family.”

Not only do the people behind the counter remain the same over the years, for many fair visitors a trip to the waffle trailer has become a part of the fair that goes back many generations, he said.

They stop by to take a bag of the powdered sugar treats home, said John.

“We see the kids grow up and have their own kids and they buy waffles,” said John.

“We are still a family tradition.”

By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer

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