OLG Parish provides a favorite stop at the state fair

The parish’s namesake seems to be overseeing the food preparation at Our Lady of Guadalupe’s food station at the Kansas State Fair. Topping a plate with cheese is Joann Drummond. (Advance photo)

By Christopher M. Riggs
SOUTH HUTCHINSON – Christina Palacioz can’t count the number of enchiladas and other types of Mexican food she and other parishioners have made since Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish initially opened its food stand at the Kansas State Fair.
The parish began serving food at the state fair about 50 years ago, when Christina was a little girl and would help by cleaning tables and sweeping the floor of the parish stand. Today, as president of the parish Altar Society, she organizes and oversees food planning and production.
Food preparation for the parish’s booth at the state fair begins after the parish hosts its annual Spring Fiesta in the first week of June, Palacioz said.
But this year those involved had to scramble a little – and not as in eggs. “We kind of had a catastrophe because our freezer went out right before the fiesta,” Palacioz said. “We had no place to store the food so we had to take it to a meat locker.”
The calamity only slowed the 40 to 50 cooks and preparers for a day or two. “We make the food, freeze it, pack it, and have it ready so that when they need it out at the state fair they can come and get what they need,” she said.
“When we first started we had a tiny booth with a dirt floor,” Palacioz said. “From some of the funds we made we were able to ‘upgrade’ and we got a floor. Several years later we got a second booth, which was much larger, and then two years ago they sold that and now we are in the food court.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners Bob and Cathy Jones are overseeing the state fair project for the parish.
The day before the fair started Bob explained that he and Cathy host several meetings to prepare and coordinate the food and volunteers.
Most of the volunteers work at the food court but several others are responsible for making sure the right amount of food gets from the cold storage to the state fair every day.
“The main thing we do is train everyone and keep everyone working together,” Bob said. “There are so many people working together you get conflicts. We keep things moving, motivate them, and thank them for their work and service.”
Some volunteers take one four-hour shift, he said, others take vacation time so that they can work all week, he said.
The food stand is a good example of Bishop Michael O. Jackels’ TOGETHER vision. Volunteers from the other two Hutchinson area parishes, St. Teresa and Holy Cross, assist Our Lady of Guadalupe in the annual fundraiser.
About 200 people work the 300 shifts during the state fair, Bob said, adding that he and Cathy try to “keep everybody working together for the same goal – and make it a fun environment.”
The long lines on weekends can be stressful at times, said.
Bob said the event helps build camaraderie among parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe and among the faithful of all three Hutchinson area parishes.
“An attorney and a food service worker will work side by side at the fair,” he said. “Two people who might not otherwise get to know each other.”
People from all walks of life find our how hard food service workers work, Bob said.

Hungry for Mexican?
Bring an appetite to the fair. Here is what the chefs at Our Lady of Guadalupe prepared this year.
• 9,000 beef tacos
• 6,000 enchiladas
• 500 tamales
• Gallons and gallons of rice and beans
Kathrine Csendes, a parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, South Hutchinson, heats a batch of enchiladas on Friday, Sept. 11, the first day of the fair.