Vacation on a stick for Owatonna woman
For Stacy Burton, her
vacation is mostly all work.
Burton takes off 14 days from her normal routine as a mother and civic booster around Owatonna to work at the Minnesota State Fair. She’s in charge of operat- ing Ole and Lena’s, a food trailer owned by Dave and Renae Jeno of Owatonna. Their specialty is churn-
ing out thousands of tater tot hot dish on, what else would you expect at the fair, but on a stick.
“It’s like a vacation for me,” said Burton, who has been operating Ole and Lena’s for the past 17 years. “It’s the 12 days of fun,”
she said of the State Fair. But, she admits, it is a lot of hard work.
During the State Fair, Burton puts in at least a 12- hour day starting at 7 a.m. And there are usually a few surprises along the way. One morning last week at
6:30 she found herself in a real sticky situation, to say the least. A shelf broke in one of the refrigerators, and Burton had milk splashed all over her head and face. “It was part of the fair experience,” she said.
She is surprised at how many customers come early in the morning to eat
hot dish. “We hear that it’s
the most Minnesotan thing at the fair, and that people like to start out their day with hot dish,” Burton said.
Burton doesn’t venture very far during her stay
at the State Fair. She stays at the fair’s campgrounds on the north end. There are seven of them living together in the camper
for two weeks. “You get to spend real close quarters with them,” she said with
a smile. “We’ve all become family,” she added.
“I’m like the mom of the camper,” Burton says. Be- fore she heads off to make tater tots on a stick, Burton cooks up a crock pot meal every morning for them to enjoy so they don’t have to rely solely on fair food.
Operating at the State
Fair isn’t the only celebra- tion for Ole and Lena’s. They also venture to the county fairs in Steele and Freeborn, Owatonna Crazy Days, Straight River Days in Med- ford, Ellendale Days, Fourth of July in Blooming Prairie and even a fair in Iowa.
The festivals start at the end of May and by the time the State Fair finishes on Labor Day, well, Burton
is more than honest about how she feels. “We’re just wiped out,” she says.
Burton has three chil- dren at home ages 11, 9 and
5. She said it’s hard to be
away from them for so long, but cell phones have eased the pain allowing them to see each other. “We have
to video conference every night, especially for the
5-year-old,” she said. Her husband takes care of the kids when she is away.
Because of its location
to home, Burton enjoys the Steele County Free Fair the most. She gets to go home every night. “It’s like going to the fair without really going to the fair,” she said. The Steele fair also allows her to see many people that she knows. Burton was born and raised in Owatonna.
Her favorite part of operating the stand is the people. “You’re meeting new people every 10 seconds. You get a wide variety of people,” Burton said. She also likes organizing in the stand to make everything function smoothly. “I love organizing. It’s what most people hate.”
When she’s not running the stand and taking care of kids, Burton is active in the Owatonna community. She is a part-time bartend- er at the VFW Club. She has served as president
for the VFW Auxiliary, involved with the Crisis Re- source Center and Rachel’s Light. She is also a member of Associated Church in