Created: Sat, 19 Oct 2013 08:35:00 EST
Updated: Sat, 19 Oct 2013 08:51:22 EST
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- It's a tough life being on the road for most of the year, serving fun food at various fairs, but one family will be preparing for something totally different after finishing up here.
Every October, Dennis and Cheryl Reas bring their family down to the South Carolina State Fair to serve up turkey legs and doughnut burgers for thousands. It's been a family business for more than a hundred years.
It's a tough business with the grueling pace of setting up, tearing down, and spending countless hours of preparing food, but it's a valuable skill set that lends itself to less festive but more important occasions: supporting first responders during natural disasters through a company called Storm Services.
Dennis Reas explains, "We've got these huge kitchens to feed them, We bring in sleep trailers, shower trailers, laundry trailers, huge, big generators, light towers, whatever they need for support."
When the fair ended last year, the Reases got a call: Hurricane Sandy was on the way to New Jersey.
Dennis adds, "We actually beat that hurricane about three days before it hit, so we rode that one out. We were actually in it."
Dennis' wife Cheryl remembers how tough it was to see the aftermath. She remembers and reflecting, saying, "Oh my goodness. These people have lost everything. Everything.'
Dennis says, though, that it's important to focus on the mission. "You don't just have a job, just like cooking. If a light tower breaks down, you have to take it and get another one. If a tree falls, you have to get a chain saw and cut it up. Nobody has a certain job in that. It's real tight. Everybody's real tight, and it just works better that way."
Yet through the tragic situations, there are some lighter moments as well. Cheryl remembers one situation in Louisiana. "We decided we would do cheese and bacon grits, and all of the guys really loved it except for one, and I got really ripped, so after that, we don't do anything with the grits except put them out on the line and add cheese and bacon there if they wanted it on their own, so I've learned: Do not mess with the grits, especially in the South."
Cheryl also adds that the largest amount of people served during one meal was 2300 people in Beaumont, Texas, and the dinner item was steaks, so she says it was a very chaotic day, but the Reases are still very happy to be serving both at the fair and supporting first responders all across the country, and they don't plan to slow down anytime soon.