Some longtime food vendors wary as York Fair switches to July

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

For many seasoned York Fair attendees, iconic food vendors who have been serving up their favorite hot and cold meals for several decades are an integral part of the experience. 

And new changes on the horizon as the York Fair prepares the shift from September to July leave many legacy food vendors with much to consider.

"I'm worried about the heat in July down here, but we plan on coming," said Vince Martino of Santillo Concessions. "It'll change the tradition of the fair a little, but hopefully it will start a new one."

Tom Cravetts cooks Italian sausage, peppers and onions at the Santillo's stand on the last day of the 2019 York Fair, Sunday, September 15, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Santillo Concessions, a York Fair staple for foods such as Italian sausage, cheese fries and hot dogs, has been part of the fair for about 25 years.

Martino said sales at his stand this year were the best they've been in about five years, which he said he thinks is thanks to a stellar entertainment lineup and good weather throughout the week.

Sandy Towson of Mr. Bill's shares a similar attitude about the upcoming change. 

"I can't really say for sure," said Towson, of Dallastown, regarding whether Mr. Bill's will be in attendance next year. "I can't stand the hot weather."

Mr. Bill's, specializing in a seafood smorgasbord of crab, shrimp and lobster, has satisfied fish lovers at the York Fair since the early '80s. Crab cakes and crab soup are a few favorites among fairgoers. 

Towson said that while the first weekend of the fair was good for their business, sales declined slightly with the coming of warmer weather later.

Though it's unclear now whether Mr. Bill's will be returning next year, Towson said they have "many local events they cater to in the summertime."

Next year: Brianna Holmes, the communications director for the York Fair, said despite anticipated heat in July, misting stations, cooling tents and resting stations will be available to all guests.

"We’ve heard a few comments about vendors having already booked their schedules with conflicting dates during the 2020 York State Fair," Holmes said via email. "We will wait till after the 2019 York Fair to look at returning vendor lists and those interested in joining us for 2020."

Holmes said that while cold treats will certainly "thrive" during the 2020 fair, there will be a variety of food vendors to offer a bit of everything.

The York Professional Firefighter's chop steak sandwich has been a staple at the York Fair for 47 years and will return next year as the Fair moves to July. Sunday, September 15, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Both The Belmont Theatre, which has been at the York Fair for 60 years, and the York Paid Firefighters Association, in its 47th year at the fair, plan on attending next year's fair despite the change in month.

"We're here because we're a staple in the community," said Ken Swartz of the York Paid Firefighters Association. "We're going to be here regardless of if it's in December or July."

Todd Roy, of The Belmont Theatre, said that while in July more people might be out of town, he's unsure whether that will impact the fair.

Todd Roy serves up a steak sandwich for a customer at the Belmont Theatre stand on the last day of the 2019 York Fair, Sunday, September 15, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Regardless, Roy said the theater plans on attending next year with the same menu and passion for serving good food to fair attendees they've had for years. 

 "We're trying to keep the legacy going," Roy, of Lancaster County, said. "The board is dedicated, and we're dedicated to keeping the efforts going."

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.