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Longtime cafe at Union Fair gets a makeover, new menu

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
Volunteers at the People's United Methodist Church of Union cafe try to fulfill an order during the Union Fair on Sunday, August 19, 2012.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

UNION, Maine — Over the years, many of the rides and games have changed at the Union Fair, but a consistent staple of the eight-day event has been a volunteer-run cafe.

The People’s United Methodist Church of Union has had the same indoor booth cafe at the fair for 51 years. This year, new organizers decided the booth and menu could both use a facelift.

“They like it,” said Jan Cramer on Sunday. Cramer is a co-chair with Mary Thompson in running the cafe this year. The Union Fair started Saturday and will run through August 25.

The booth, which was originally run by United Methodist Women in 1961, offers a new menu and updates to old items.

“Food before was all ground meat sandwiches — ground ham, turkey. Now it’s shaved roast beef, shaved turkey and shaved ham instead of the ground-up meat with mayonnaise,” said Cramer.

The bread the sandwiches are served on is now made by someone at the church.

“This year, all our bread is homemade yeast bread. It used to be Wonder Bread that suck to the roof of your mouth,” said Cramer with a laugh.

The same woman who made the bread also brought in 15 dozen molasses, buttermilk and chocolate donuts. A variety of pies, muffins and whoopie pies are also on the menu.

The design of the kitchen and seating area have also been changed. The workstation for the volunteers has been rearranged for better efficiency. The seating area is more open and allows for better access, said Cramer.

“It was hard getting in and out [before],” said Cramer.

The area is now more inviting with most things painted a fresh white, and a new hand-painted sign hangs over the cafe.

Cramer said she wondered if the left wall could be used as a dry-erase board.

“So now we have the menu up on the wall with dry-erase marker,” she said. “We had [the menu] on a little piece of paper [before].”

Cramer and the rest of the volunteer staff prepared breakfast for fair workers from 7 to 9 a.m. on Sunday before heading to church. They left a sign on the booth stating it would reopen at 1 p.m.

“We had a group of about 20 people [waiting when we got back],” said Cramer. “Someone was going out and getting orders because the line was so long.”

Cramer said about 35 people have helped out this year through volunteering time to work the cafe or through donations.

“Just so many people have helped. I’m so happy with that,” said Cramer.

Even though the booth’s makeover was needed, said Cramer, she was quick to praise those who helped make the cafe last for half a century.

“You’ve got to respect the women who’ve done it for years,” said Cramer.

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