Thursday, July 7, 2011

Working Fair St. Louis

Our gyro stand is over at the left.
After one day of travel and one of sightseeing, it was time to get down to work. Cameron and I had come to sell gyros after all, and that's what we were going to do.

Fair Saint Louis is probably the biggest event of the year (known as America's Biggest Birthday Party), and we showed up early on Saturday morning to make sure that everything was ready to go.

Here we are on our way to our stand, right below the arch! We were in the perfect location: shady, near the front, and with a lovely view of the airshow and even some of the stage (through the Budweiser tent in front of us).

Cameron: the onion man.
Teddy, Stefan, Radi, Cameron, and later Ivan, were the gyro-men, while Melinda and I took care of dessert, drinks, money, and order-fulfillment. We were sharing a tent with Bayou Seasoning and Catering: a whole passel of fun people I thoroughly enjoyed. Altogether we made quite an ethnic mix--Caucasian American, African American, and Bulgarian. Teddy, Stefan, and Radi were all Bulgarian, and I later met a Bulgarian priest, Ivan, and Stefan's Bulgarian girlfriend, Ellie. Altogether that made for a very eclectic experience, especially whenever they all started talking in Bulgarian. 

Those three days were full of ups and downs, lots of laughs, stress, unforeseen difficulties, and interesting new experiences. 

Every day there was a big schedule: two air shows, displays of local talent on the stage, a finale show with a star band, and then fireworks to cap it all off. The crowds were enormous, and though not all of them wanted gyros, I think business went pretty well, all things considered.

I was the spokesperson for our booth, shouting to get the crowd's attention. My chanting calls will probably echo in my ears for weeks to come:

Authentic Greek gyros!
Step right up here for some delicious croissant bread pudding and refreshing strawberry lemonade!
Homemade baklava!
Fresh Greek salads, right over here!
Authentic Greek gyros and strawberry lemonade!

It was a strain on my vocal chords, but I like to think that it did drum up some business. 

In between rushes of customers Cameron and I might wander the grounds, I would take photos, and we'd scarf down yet another gyro (Cameron ate six over the weekend). I tried to sample all of our delicacies and all of the Cajun fare: andouille sausage on a bun with onions and peppers, jambalaya, bourbon chicken on a stick and beef sirloin kabobs, etc., etc. Then I'd get back to shouting again, Cameron would grill a few more pitas, and I would desperately try to calculate change for a hundred dollar bill. We suffered through some very bad music, and then didn't mind so much when the Steve Miller Band took the stage.

The firework show that first night was little short of spectacular! From my vantage point their fiery explosions were reflected in the shiny metal of the arch, and they flowed and shifted away from each other in waves of green and purple. While watching fireworks and hearing the cacophony of the crowd--different colors, different shapes, different languages--I was reminded that our country is a nation of immigrants, a nation where everyone is different, and everyone is equal. That night I was proud to be American.

Saturday was a rousing success, but Sunday had something else in store for us. We got to sleep in, and when we arrived at the fairgrounds the sky was clear blue and the sun was beating down mercilessly. We were all sick of the heat after sweating so profusely the day before. Little did we know that in the afternoon clouds would start rolling in, rumors would begin to circulate, and little men with official-looking badges would walk around telling vendors to batten down the hatches.

The storm struck at about 3:45 with high winds that destroyed tents and a torrential downpour that threatened to soak everything and everyone to the bone. Thankfully, our tent stayed put and offered us and several others shelter from the the storm, but all of a sudden it was very cold, and very wet, and it was either scream or laugh. So I laughed.

The heavy rain turned the Gateway Arch into
a very large water feature.
That pretty much ruined our chances of selling much for the rest of the day. What we hoped would be a 15 minute shower continued on and on indefinitely. The second airshow, the Maroon 5 concert, and fireworks were cancelled. We tried to mop things up, avoid the mud, and advertise "fresh warm gyros", but ended up leaving early all the same.

Monday--July 4--would have to make up for our losses of the previous night. We started up the grills and I began advertising once more. While we didn't exactly get "slammed", we did have a pretty good trickle of people, and got a few rushes. The air shows seemed to go off smoothly, Montgomery Gentry played their raucous country tunes (Oh the joy that fills my heart.), and the firework finale was huge. 

Cameron and I headed home the next morning, finished listening to an excellent audiobook (Holes by Louis Sachar), and arrived home a few hours later, safe and sound. All in all, our trip was just what I had wanted: a Grand Adventure filled with unique and exciting new experiences. 

But do you know what I think I will treasure the most from this short trip? It's the people I met and the new friends I made. From the nice man at Eovaldi's Deli to the lively Mindy, to hilarious Stefan, to friendly Radi, to the darling and lovable Dooey, Keith, Susan, and Sharon--I've learned lessons, drunk in a new atmosphere, and spread my wings just a little bit farther. 

Thanks for coming on this journey with me!

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