The dark-green Al’s French Fry RV is a trademark for the iconic Vermont burger and fries outlet that still features a license plate from 1947. Last week, the classic food truck stood among three other Al’s booths at the Champlain Valley Fair.
Just around the corner, owner Bill Bissonette and his son Shane Bissonette, both well-versed in the demands of the fair, recounted their experience on Sunday, as the 2019 fair neared its close.
“We have a few booths. The first Al’s booth started here in 1946,” Shane said. “We just kind of come in and do it, and have been as long as I can remember.”
The longtime local burger joint is a fixture on Williston Road in South Burlington, but it takes its show on the road for special events around the region and traditionally at the fair in Essex Junction.
This year, Al’s French Frys set up four booths and delivered its signature fries, burgers and smoothies. Two booths served only fries and drinks, while the third sold burgers and a fourth, the Oasis booth, sold only smoothies.
Simplicity is part of the secret to Al’s time-tested success at the fair.
“Most of our booths up here have mostly fries and drinks,” Shane said. “Our most popular order is a large french fry.”
Fries are handed out in pint (small) and quart (large) containers.
“We’ve sold a few bags and there are about 50 pounds in a bag,” he said, staying tight-lipped on just how many pints and quarts fairgoers purchased.
The friendly staff at each of Al’s booths also contributes to the long-standing success. This year, Al’s had a crew of approximately 15 to 18 workers beyond its normal staff to run its various stands at the fair.
“We have workers who have been with us 20 or 25 years who take a week off from their regular jobs to come and help out. They aren’t just from South Burlington but all over Vermont.”
Fair staff aim to have fun, cracking jokes with their customers and keeping in good spirits regardless of the weather, Shane said.
And there are advantages to being a local vendor with a 50-year track record at the fair.
“It’s great to see people who are regulars at the restaurant as well as new faces at the fair,” Shane said.
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.