The Times photo by Betsy ReasonHamilton County Extension Homemaker Kitchen coordinator Sharon Parker (back), cook Nancy Bowman (right) and volunteer server Andrew Marshall work together to serve customer Marsha Pollock (left).
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Hamilton County Extension Homemaker Kitchen coordinator Sharon Parker (back), cook Nancy Bowman (right) and volunteer server Andrew Marshall work together to serve customer Marsha Pollock (left).
I remember years ago, when I worked at The Noblesville Ledger newspaper, and all of us reporters would meet for lunch at the Hamilton County Extension Homemakers Food Stand during the 4-H Fair.

It was in mid- to late 1980s, and the Food Stand was a little building at the Fairgrounds. The dining room was a big screened-in porch with picnic tables, and the kitchen was at the back and wasn't air conditioned. That original and first Food Stand was dedicated on April 25, 1971.

Today, Extension Homemakers have a nice big kitchen and a public dining room, all new, when the Food Stand moved to the air-conditioned Exhibition Center when it was built in 1997.

This week and weekend, stop by the Extension Homemakers Kitchen, where volunteers and workers are busy cooking and serving. The dining room is open every day of the 4-H Fair with breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

For breakfast, biscuits and gravy and sausage patty with cheese are popular choices. They also serve watermelon and cantaloupe, applesauce and cottage cheese for breakfast. And this year, they added Cheerios dry cereal.

For lunch and dinner, there are Beef and Noodles today and choice of Beef or Chicken Noodles on Sunday, as the daily specials. Plus, there are other foods. "The taco salads are very good, and the Sloppy Joes are the best ever," said Sharon Parker, 67, Noblesville.

Parker is the supervisor of the kitchen. She does all of the ordering and coordinates the workers and the food. It's been her job for three years, but before that, since 1989, she volunteered in the kitchen, as do other Extension Homemakers every year at the 4-H Fair. She took over for fellow Extension Homemaker Barb Lawson, when she retired. "Barb was coordinating (the food) when I first started," said Parker, who first took over for (the late) Frances King, who was coordinating the workers," and then Barb's job, "when Barb didn't want to do it anymore, I took over both (jobs)."

So what goes into readying for the 4-H Fair? "We hire the (three) cooks (in April)," said Parker. Barb Davis is a retired Noblesville Schools cafeteria worker; her daughter, Regina Guffey, takes a vacation from her daycare cooking job "to help us out," and Nancy Bowman, supervisor at Promise Road Elementary School cafeteria, is assistant to Parker and is serve-safe certified.

Volunteers make salads and side dishes, cut up cantaloupe and watermelon, make chicken-salad croissants, and cut sugar-cream and fruit pies, serve drinks, clean tables and work as cashiers.

While most of the volunteers are Extension Homemakers, one of the volunteers is Andrew Marshall, whose wife works at the Purdue Extension Office at the Fairgrounds. He was smiling and happily serving guests spaghetti and meatballs at the counter on Thursday.

Each year, the menu is about the same, with spaghetti as the special on opening day of the Fair, and chicken and noodles always on Friday, which is the busiest day of the fair. "The line is out the door," Parker said.

So what's so special about their chicken and noodles? "It's just Amish noodles, boned chicken and a sauced gravy, served with choice of two sides, from mashed potatoes and green beans to macaroni and cheese.

And while Extension Homemakers no longer make their own homemade pies, they do get fresh pies from local bakeries, sugar-cream pies from Sweet Inspirations Bakery in Cicero and fruit pies from Puckett's Pie Shop in Kokomo.

Extension Homemakers haven't offered the Ham and Beans special for the last three years, she said of the dish that was once offered on Mondays.

For the rest of the Fair, the Extension Homemaker dining room is open 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast, then closes and reopens for lunch from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. on Fridays, and 2 p.m. on Monday.

The Extension Homemakers Kitchen brings in between $7,000 and $9,000 annually. Money raised goes to Extension Homemakers' scholarship fund, which annually gives away four $500 scholarships to Hamilton County high school seniors. But this year, they gave out eight scholarships because, Parker said, the candidates "were all worthy."

Also, be sure to visit Extension Homemakers' food and crafts show, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Exhibition Hall, across from the dining room.

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