After attending the Missouri State Fair for approximately 82 years, Sedalia’s Maxine Griggs, 89, will be hanging up her oven mittens after this year’s food competitions.
Griggs, a MSF regular, will turn 90 Aug. 14 and she plans to slow down.
“I feel like it’s time for me to stop and smell the roses with my kids,” she said.
Next week, she will not be slowing down but will spend eight to nine hours each day in her kitchen making pre-fair entries. Griggs began competing after she retired and has amassed close to 500 ribbons for her entries over the years.
Griggs’s family, the Kindles, have long been a staple in MSF food concessions and that tradition will continue, she said. While sitting in her kitchen Tuesday, she reminisced about her family’s long history at the MSF that began when she was 9. One of 14 children belonging to Homer and Myrl Kindle, of Beamon, Griggs was delighted to be selected to go to the MSF with a local family in the early ’30s.
“My first visit to the fair was with the McFarlands,,” she said. “Don McFarland’s mother asked my mother if one of us kids could go to the fair with them because they had an extra seat in the car.”
She said at the time her family’s only transportation was a horse and buggy.
“Daddy gave me a quarter, and I thought I was wealthy,” Griggs said.
The McFarlands parked on the fairgrounds, had lunch under a shade tree, and prepared to see the livestock.
“At that time the cattle were all brought in by rail,” she noted. “There was a railroad track out there. We walked from the campgrounds into where the cattle started.”
Griggs toured the Jersey cow barns, saw the mules and went up to the one of the first food concessions owned by Ruby Williams. During the fair in the early ’30s, Griggs said everything was under tents not buildings.
“We went and saw the carnival grounds, and I saw all kinds of sights I’d never thought could be,” she added. “I got to ride the merry go round twice for a nickel.”
The next year, Griggs’s sister Lucille Bowers and her husband Lloyd decide to put up a tent for food concessions.
“My dad and brother-in-law cut enough timber to hold up a tent, (and) the McFarland’s rented them a tent,” Griggs said.
The family placed a cook stove out back of the tent to prepare meals. Tables were set up under the tent for fair-goers to eat the meals.
“Grandma Bowers was blind and she did all the baking and cooking outside,” Griggs said. “We had 22 plates, and what little silverware mama and Lucille had, that’s what we used. We could feed 22 people.”
The family prepared chicken for fair-goers, but in the early 1930s the process was much more labor intensive.
“The year we put the tent up, mama would get up and she would kill the chickens so we could have 25 chickens in a washtub of water,” she said. “Daddy would bring them into town.”
The family had begun planning the food concession the year before, so in preparation they canned green beans and vegetables and stored and preserved beef and pork in stone jars to be served along with cured ham.
“Grandma Bowers baked all the bread, and the biscuits and the pies and cobblers,” Griggs said. “That’s the way we fed them in the first year. In the second or third year, the state said they would put up a building.
“From then on, I think it was ‘34, ‘35, and maybe ‘36, I carried water in a water bucket with a dipper for people to drink out of,” she added. “On the way from the Jersey Barn, where you make the turn, people would stop me and get a drink of water out of that bucket. Nobody thought anything about drinking after each other then; there was no water fountains.”
Griggs remembers, as a child, filling a washtub full of water and washing dishes for the concession and drying them on a tea towel.
“As the years went by, the fair grew,” she added.
Kindle concessions was the No. 9 stand, now known as Truck’s Place.
“No. 9 was the beginning of the Kindle family being on the fairgrounds,” she said. “When we were growing up, we grew up in those concessions. We all worked for Lucille and Lloyd and then as the years passed we would move into different locations.”
She said she would manage No. 9 while her sister Nadine would take care of No. 8.
The Kindle family never missed an opportunity to have a concession stand at the MSF except during World War II.
“In World War II they closed the concession because of the war,” she said.
Her brother-in-law, Lloyd Bowers, was serving in the Pacific Theatre during the war. The stand was left for Griggs and her sister Lucille to operate alone; it became too much for them and they closed it for a time.
Years later, Griggs, bought six concessions and began Bell Catering during the 1960s. The stands are operated by her grandchildren. She would also come to own her own Sedalia restaurant named Maxine’s, and eventually cater the Governor’s Ham Breakfast for many years.
“I did 17 ham breakfasts from the time of (Governor) Warren Hearnes to (Governor) Ashcroft,” she said. “I did 95 percent of all the catering for the RVs. I hold the record for 1,500 people for the Holiday Ramblers.”
Griggs also catered to the MSF entertainers backstage; serving up meals to Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and George Strait.
After her retirement, Griggs didn’t slow down but began to enter the MSF Home Economics food competitions in 1996. When the MSF begins Aug. 13 Griggs plans to be there each day and to enter as many contests as possible.
Although she won’t be competing in 2016, she plans to be at the fair.
“If I’m still alive, I’ll go out and enjoy it and maybe they’ll let me judge,” she said.”The ironic part of all this is, the Williams and the McKinneys are no longer operating so the Kindle legend has gone on.
“I love that fairground,” she added. “I said ‘of all the places in my life, I love it better than any place I’ve ever been.’”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.