April Holland is shown with a bowl of Cory-Rawson Hornets Boosters Chicken-n-Noodles on Thursday at the Hancock County Fair. The school’s tent has been a staple at the fair for decades and raises up to $12,000 annually for the music and athletic boosters. Offering a week’s worth of the noodles, priced at just $2.50 a bowl, requires 27 cases of noodles. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN

LIFE EDITOR

RAWSON — It takes over 300 volunteers, 27 cases of noodles and a whole lot of emails to bring the Cory-Rawson Hornets Boosters Tent to the Hancock County Fair each summer.

In return, hungry fairgoers reward the school district with up to $12,000 in net proceeds to benefit student athletes and musicians.

April Holland of Bluffton has been the “go-to person” for this massive effort for the past five years, after getting involved 10 years ago. Backed by an army of teachers and parents, principals, board members, students, athletes and coaches, she makes sure the 320 necessary volunteers are in place to cook, clean, wash dishes, take orders, run the cash register and oversee the general scene over three shifts daily during fair week.

“I have everyone from first-graders to 90-year-olds working,” Holland says, noting that among the many returning volunteers, new faces continue to step up to help.

“This year in particular, I’ve been really excited at how many new people I’ve had.”

These volunteers serve up great quantities of homemade food under the green-and-white tent. Among the favorites is the Hornet Burger.

“It’s our claim to fame,” Holland says of the quarter-pound grilled burger, served as a single, double or, on extremely rare occasions, triple cheeseburger. This is topped with coney sauce and either sliced or nacho cheese, though nacho cheese is the traditional choice.

“It is a messy, messy, messy indulgence,” Holland says.

Other menu items include hot dogs, fish sandwiches, shredded chicken, chicken tenders and homemade pie crafted by a local caterer.

“Pie is big,” Holland says.

Also big is the Chicken-n-Noodles. Like, 27 cases of noodles big.

Holland says at one time, moms and kids gathered in one huge noodle-making effort in the school cafeteria in preparation for the fair. Times have changed and many moms have jobs now, so the boosters purchase Mrs. Wicks noodles instead.

“They’re as close to homemade as we found anywhere,” Holland says. “But you can imagine, back in the day, what a huge operation making all those noodles would be.”

These days, 20 cups of noodles are simmered in hundreds of ounces of broth and shredded chicken at a time.

“We make them in great big huge vats,” she says, adding that four to six vats of the chicken and noodles are served daily at the fair.

Prices at the tent are intentionally kept low in an effort to accommodate families who are already spending a lot on admission, ride tickets and other treats.

Holland says the food tent also offers a needed social outlet for the die-hard customers “that have to have their daily Hornet Burger and pie.”

“I’ve been around here all my life and it’s always been here,” Holland says of the tent. “We keep this going because it is a tradition for the community.”

One woman, Fairy Parkins, has worked the tent for over 50 years. The dedicated volunteer is in her 90s and takes great pride in having worked the exact same shift — the 2-6 p.m. Sunday cashier station — for the past 26 years.

Holland says the booster tent has generated as little as $6,000 in a year and as much as $12,000, with much of the proceeds dependent on the weather and overall fair attendance.

Proceeds are split equally between the athletic and music programs and, in 2018, provided six scholarships for graduating seniors. Additional monies go toward things like sports uniforms, equipment, band instruments and the cost of music or sports camps.

“If they need it, we do it,” Holland says of the students at Cory-Rawson Local School. “We don’t let anybody go without.”

Holland admits it can be a lot of work organizing a week’s worth of meals at the fair, but says most vendors have been working with the organization for many years and have the school’s standard order at the ready. She notes that Prism donates the propane for the grill and the fryers, and Legacy donates the refrigerants shared by the Cory-Rawson and Van Buren kitchens.

Holland starts lining up volunteers at end-of-year banquets and ceremonies, then approaches additional community members during summer school-related meetings. Most fair shifts get covered easily.

“And then I start sending out my begging emails,” she says with a laugh.

Cory-Rawson Hornets Boosters Chicken-n-Noodles

(Makes a large vat to feed many, many fairgoers)

2 50-ounce cans chicken broth
Hot water
1 50-ounce can shredded chicken
20 cups noodles

Prepare the broth by mixing two cans chicken broth with four cans of hot water and 1 can of shredded chicken. Bring to a boil.
Add 20 cups noddles and simmer in broth for 20 minutes.

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