Kevin Cleasby will have his food cart set up at the Topsham Fairgrounds from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and again July 2-5 to serve fair food like fried dough, deep fried Oreos, Italian sausage and fresh cut fries. Topsham Fair photo

TOPSHAM — Kevin Cleasby of New Hampshire makes most of his income by running his food cart at Maine fairs during the summer. As of Tuesday, 21 out of 26 Maine fairs have canceled due to the pandemic.

Cleasby, like other vendors, is finding new ways to make ends meet without his main source of summer income.

Cleasby normally sets up a food cart at the Topsham Fair in August. He said the Topsham Fair Association let him set up at the fairgrounds over the next two weekends, although there’s no fair in sight. He plans to serve take-out only from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, as well as July 2-5.

Ye Olde English Fish and Chips owners Wayne and Kristy Alexander live in Richmond but normally travel to events and fairs across the state. With their typical events called off, the Alexanders are setting up at their home along Route 201 in that town every other weekend.

They said local support has been overwhelming.

“People are definitely still hesitant in coming out because of the pandemic,” Kristy Alexander said. “We do a carhop service so we go to the vehicles and our waitresses take orders. They don’t have to get out of their cars. A lot of people are loving that aspect of it.”

Now they have hand sanitizing stations and tables with umbrellas that are in heavy use too.

Ye Olde English Fish and Chips owners Wayne and Kristy Alexander are setting up a food cart at their home on Route 201 in Richmond every other weekend if they haven’t traveled to other towns. Darcie Moore / The Time Record

“It’s definitely been life-altering, but then again, you have to do what you can to survive,” Alexander said.

They have been invited to set up within the towns of Fryeburg and Presque Isle, where they normally go for their two largest fairs. Alexander said it’s still too early to say in June how hard a hit they’ll take due to the pandemic. They still have the Skowhegan, Oxford and Farmington fairs and the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival in Brunswick on the books.

“Are they going to cancel? I have no idea,” Alexander said.

Cleasby feels a sense of uncertainty too. He said food businesses could be “closed on a dime” if health experts see cases spreading of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

And because he’s not traveling his usual route of fairs, it’s tricky to estimate how much food he’ll need.

“You don’t want to be going back home with $500 worth of product you just bought for no reason,” he said.

After his stop in Topsham, Cleasby doesn’t know where he’ll go next. He doesn’t expect the disruption caused by the pandemic can drive him out of business but as for this year, “it may not even be a venture I continue.”


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