They give you a fair shake

Milkshake bar connects families to annual event

BAZETTA – Staffed with more than 100 volunteers and managed by the Butler family, the Trumbull County Fair’s Milkshake Bar is both a promotional and a philanthropic service that funds 4-H projects and fairgrounds improvements.

A fair landmark, it is owned by the Holstein Club, a local dairy organization, but financed and run by Butch Karasiewicz, Joe Turon and Andy Butler. Both Turon and Butler own and operate separate family dairy farms, and their families have been a part of the dairy bar since the Trumbull County Fair started.

“The main reason we continue to do this each year is to promote dairy products,” Butler said. ”The intention of dairy farmers in Trumbull County is to show where dairy comes from and what the result is.”

The milkshake bar’s dairy products come from Austintown Dairy.

All the dairy collected from cows in the 4-H programs during fair week is filtered in a small milk parlor to cool and then taken to a manufacturing facility for pasteurization. Attendees get an idea of what a local dairy farm is like by viewing the fair’s milk parlor. Visitors get to witness cows being walked into the parlor by their farmers and then checked for abnormalities before the milking process begins.

Laura Smallsreed of Braceville is the parlor manager and said people ask a lot of questions regarding their food’s source.

“We’re here for the public to ask questions. They normally ask about the milking process, from how much is processed to whether or not it harms the cows,” she said. “They just like to see the other end … where their food comes from.”

One interested viewer, Deborah Chatman of Warren, said she’s a caseworker for the Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services and deals with the Department of Agriculture. Her main interest in the milk parlor stemmed from the means to get the milk, but she also was invested in learning about the families who participate in the 4-H program and the compassion instilled in their work.

“I wanted to find out how third generational families work together as a team to take care of their farms. They have pride in their work and their family. It’s a bond,” Chatman said. “Inner city kids don’t see this, the tenderness towards life.”

The passion from the farm extends to the Trumbull County Milkshake Bar, where the managers and volunteers enjoy involving the public in what they do.

Donna Jean Deemer of Johnston and Melanie Vecchio of Cortland said they have worked at the milkshake bar every day of the Trumbull County Fair for the past few years. They’ve gotten to know people through the 4-H programs, volunteering and as regular customers. Some of the volunteers belong to the clubs at the fairgrounds, others grew up there because their families were volunteers or participants.

“It’s a great thing to see some of the volunteers in clubs come back with awards. We watch them grow up,” Deemer said. “This is the aunt and uncle of the whole fair. Or the grandfather because it’s been here so long.”

Colby Turon, 9, of Farmington shows dairy cows in the 4-H program and volunteers at the milkshake bar every day after tending to his animals.

“I pretty much like to help when there are huge waves of customers,” he said.

Since the milkshake bar is a family-oriented operation, it would only make sense that the workers’ family members also volunteer during the “family shift.”

Vecchio’s uncle, Karasiewicz, who is one of the men in charge, started the family shift four years ago.

“Uncle Butch coordinates it. It’s nice to see people you know, and we work together really good,” Vecchio said. “People don’t do this anymore.”

Butler explained there’s been a big push in agriculture at the fair because there’s a missing piece between people and their food.

“We have an open dialogue with the customers,” Butler said. “Nobody should feel like they can just observe. Here’s an opportunity to get involved.”