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Fundraising food: Traditional food carries on at Othello Fair

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 21, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — The barns were full of animals. The Othello Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo performances went on, despite a rainy Friday night, and the Othello Fair parade carried on, despite a rainy Saturday morning. The exhibit hall was open, the carnival was offering rides and the food booths run by local organizations did a brisk business.

The Othello Fair and Othello PRCA Rodeo were back for 2021, from Sept. 15-18.

The Othello Fair has its share of tradition, and one of the big traditions is the food.

There’s a fair itinerary of sorts, from the roasted chicken dinners at the Othello Rotary Club booth to the spoon tacos at the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish booth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers elephant ears.

Over the years, each booth has developed a specialty that keeps people coming back, year after year.

“We’re known for the spoon tacos and the pies,” said Diana Brault, who was busy cutting tomatoes at the Sacred Heart booth Saturday.

“They’re homemade pies,” said Vanessa Bustos, working the booth Thursday afternoon.

And it’s not a skimpy menu, either. It includes classics like apple, cherry and peach pies, along with banana cream, lemon custard and chocolate cream, among others. Brault said women from the parish spend about a week before the fair baking the fruit pies.

The homemade tamales are another star attraction, but the Sacred Heart booth also is known for spoon tacos. They start with a bed of corn chips, covered with chili.

“And then we add onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and homemade salsa, if you would like,” Bustos said.

The Othello Rotary Club booth is known for its roasted chicken dinners. They’re made at the fairgrounds, way off the beaten path, by the rodeo arena. Sales don’t start until the chickens arrive, which is why the booth’s windows were closed until almost noon Saturday.

Any leftover chicken goes into the barbecue chicken sandwiches.

“You’ll have a hard time finding a better barbecue chicken,” said Randy Deasy, one of the volunteers in the booth Thursday.

And then there are the elephant ears with honey butter, sold by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Man, that (the elephant ear) was so good. We got to fight over who got the last bite,” Deasy said.

Church members have been volunteering at the elephant ear booth for years. Brad Kent said he’s been manning the fryer for 25 to 30 years.

“At least I don’t burn them any more,” he said.

But what really makes the elephant ears a favorite is the honey butter. Charlotte Johnson, among the volunteers on Thursday, said it’s exactly like it sounds, a mix of honey and butter.

“It’s so good I eat it out of the cup,” Johnson said.

It’s made by volunteers from the church youth group, who, like the parishioners at Sacred Heart, get together and assemble it beforehand.

The money raised from sales at the booths goes to local worthy causes.

“When we have a good year, we’re able to do more things for the community,” Deasy said.

The Rotary Club funds scholarships and youth activities, among other things. Sacred Heart parishioners fund parish activities out of their proceeds, said Fred Valdez, working the booth Thursday.

Othello High School band students, many of them part of the drumline, were making hamburgers at the 4-H booth Saturday, raising money for their activities.

But like many other groups, the 4-H clubs were having trouble finding volunteers.

The pandemic meant Rotary Club members couldn’t meet in person, which affected the club, Deasy said. But volunteers came from elsewhere.

Members of the Othello Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward helped at the Rotary Club booth, as well as the elephant ear booth.

“They’ve been a great help. They’re excited about it, too. They’re having fun,” Deasy said.