Mark and Linda Carunchia

DeKalb County 4-H Council food stands manager Linda Carunchia and her husband, Mark, are busy at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds preparing for the upcoming DeKalb County Free Fall Fair. The 4-H Council operates two food stands on the fairgrounds. Revenue from food stand sales helps support the 4-H program.

AUBURN — It’s a staple of the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair.

The DeKalb County 4-H food stand pork burger is a must-have for many during the weeklong fair. And eating a pork burger goes a long way to supporting the 4-H program as the food stands generate about 50 percent of funds to cover the DeKalb County 4-H Council’s annual budget.

The 4-H Council, in conjunction with Purdue Extension/4-H Youth Development, funds and oversees the 4-H program in DeKalb County. The program involves more than 600 youth and 400 families in a wide variety of activities and projects throughout the year.

4-H Council food stands manager Linda Carunchia expects the stands to serve around 6,700 fair pork burgers during this year’s fair.

“That’s what we’re famous for,” Carunchia said. “Support DeKalb 4-H — eat a pork burger!”

Food stand planning and preparation for the fair is a year-round venture, and Carunchia describes her husband, Mark, who also is the 4-H Council treasurer, as her food stand “sidekick.”

The 4-H program runs deep in the Carunchia family. Linda was a 10-year 4-H member herself. She and her husband have been leaders of the 4-H Doubletrees for 23 years. She also is a leader for the 4-H Junior Leaders program.

The Carunchias’ children, Travis Carunchia and Katie (Carunchia) Whiteford, also were 10-year 4-H members and still are involved in the program, Travis as a 4-H leader and Katie as a Purdue Extension educator in Clark County.

The Carunchias’ enthusiasm for the program is readily apparent, and a desire to help raise funds to support 4-H youth is second-nature.

According to the Carunchias, the 4-H Council receives only $3,000 per year in tax money and must raise the remainder of its $105,000 budget through fundraising and other 4-H activities. A small percentage of the annual 4-H Livestock Auction is returned to the 4-H Council and earmarked as capital improvement funding.

Since 2017, the 4-H Council has spent over $50,000 in improvements at the fairgrounds, including remodels to both food stands, new restrooms, a kitchen remodel and LED lighting in the 4-H Exhibit Hall, new grounds lighting and an upgrade to the public address system.

In addition to its famous pork burgers, during last yeast year’s fair, the two 4-H food stands served 2,200 hamburgers; 1,800 hot dogs; 350 brats; 200 chicken breasts; 150 ribeye sandwiches; 120 pork loins; 123 lamb burgers; 181 chef salads; 45 pounds of barbecued rabbit; 40 dozen donuts; more than 400 pounds of loaded baked potatoes; 75 gallons of homemade chili; 6,740 bottles of pop, Gatorade and juice; 2,520 bottles of milk; 25 gallons of dill pickle chips; 15 gallons of relish; 75 cases of water; and more than 12,000 buns.

The majority of the products were donated or sponsored by more than 30 individuals and businesses. Carunchia has received similar donations for this year’s fair.

In keeping with recent years, the stands will serve species-specific dishes representing the species that are being shown at the fair on a given day.

New for this year will be goat burgers on goat show day; chicken and noodles on the poultry show day and toasted cheese sandwiches, along with strawberry toppings for sundaes, on dairy day.

The successful operation of the food stands requires volunteers who are willing to fill the approximately 275 slots on the fair week food stand schedule. Shifts run about 4-6 hours in length and about 4-6 people are required for each shift in each food stand.

“Anybody can work in the food stand,” Carunchia said, noting volunteers do not need to be involved in 4-H. This year businesses, groups and service organizations are invited and encouraged to sign up and wear their business or club logo shirts and hats.

“We’ve seen other counties do it,” Mark Carunchia said of expanding the pool of volunteers.

“The entire group is here for the kids,” Linda Carunchia said. “We’re all volunteers. We’re on the same page.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to work a food stand shift should contact Carunchia by email at markandlindac@gmail.com or by calling or texting 343-8793.

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