WHITE OAK, Ohio — Heather Wendling and her sister, Megan Kissel, were beginning to panic. They knew Kissel Family Carnival, the family business that keeps them on the road from May to the beginning of October, couldn’t open as planned in a summer ruled by anxiety about crowds. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine hasn’t provided clear instructions about when large events will be able to move forward.
“We had hope for sure that come summer time, things are going to get better,” Wendling said. “And then as news kept coming out we were like, ‘This isn’t looking good.’ Anxiety setting in. My parents were a wreck — they are still a wreck.”
They couldn’t open their rides. Games were out. Only one piece of their business seemed safe and regulation-compliant: Concessions. Carry-out food service, after all, had been going on since the start of the pandemic.
The sisters secured a space in White Oak and got to work. For as long as the future remains in flux, people in southwest Ohio can stop by Wally’s Concessions on the weekend for carnival-style corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried Oreos and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Wendling sees it as a dose of normality in a summer defined by strangeness.
“People have traveled from Batavia, they have traveled from over an hour away because their kids want corn dogs and funnel cakes and French fries and deep fried Oreos,” she said.
Customers Kim and Christina Sorentino couldn’t resist the prospect of funnel cake, they said when they stopped by. They’d seen a sign on the side of the road and made a beeline for Wally’s.
“I don’t love carnivals because there is a lot of people and I don’t love crowds like that, but I love the food, and you can’t really get it anywhere else,” Christina said.
No individual item on the Wally’s menu is more than $8. Kissel said she’s seen a large number of returning customers — people who order a single item and realize they can’t settle for one.
It gives her hope, she said, even as her family continues to grapple with the six-month span of uncertainty that’s replaced their summer.
“We keep fighting, and we hope everybody else keeps fighting, everybody that is struggling,” she said.
Wally’s Concession Stand is located at 3633 Blue Rock Road in White Oak, Ohio. It is open 5-8 p.m. on Fridays and 2-8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.