A Lino Lakes couple who met at the State Fair 23 years ago can’t wait to “run a marathon” at this year’s big get-together.
Brendan and Melissa Szala have brought their Pitchfork Sausage truck to the fair for seven years. The two met while working at Butcher Boys and have now been married for 13 years. They have four children who are also involved when they can be, including Trevor, 10, Zoey, 7, Colin, 4, and 8-month-old Lexie.
“The State Fair is the longest marathon you will ever run, but you are still having the most fun of your life. We work 18-hour days, you go home, take a shower, take a nap, and then you go and do it again. You just do it because you like doing it. It is fun and every day is different,” Melissa said. “I have had office jobs, and nothing will prepare you for the rush that you get from going to the fair, seeing all the lights, hearing all the sounds and being there almost every minute it is open of every single day.”
The two left the fair scene to finish up college and start a family, but their business partner approached them with the idea to start their own concession stand at the State Fair and they were itching to get back.
“We thought it was a really good idea. We tried to get in for a few years, and then we got that magical phone call in 2013 that our application was accepted,” Melissa explained. Every year the couple has to re-apply for a spot at the fair and cross their fingers in hopes that they will get the opportunity to go one more time.
Pitchfork Sausage serves Polish and Italian sausage. The sausage is served one of three ways — on a pitchfork, steamed roll, or sliced up/appetizer-style in a dish. They also cater to many food allergies, including gluten, dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish. “Seeing kids who have food allergies who can’t eat hardly anything come and be able to order anything on the menu is huge. It is heart-warming,” Melissa said.
In addition to the State Fair, Brendan and Melissa also bring Pitchfork Sausage to a few other events at the fairgrounds such as Back to the ’50s, Street Machine Nationals and the Minnesota Horse Show. Their hope is to one day attend other state fairs, too.
Brendan works for the Hennepin County Jail, and Melissa has been a stay-at-home mom for the past three years since she left a job in the corporate world.
“If there were ever an industry that I could tell somebody to go into, if they have a really good idea or the drive to be on their own, I would tell them to get into the carnival theme. It is fun. You meet amazing people. The people out here are among some of the nicest people you will ever meet in your life,” she said. “Everybody is willing to help everybody. If somebody needs whatever, they will call around and you will have it. I cannot say enough about the friendships we made and the people we work with because everybody helps everybody, and you don’t see that anymore.”
Pitchfork Sausage is located at the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street across from the transit hub and West End Market.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.