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Big Al's celebrates 24 years as vendor at Beltrami County Fair

When Jim Allen first set up his concession stand at Beltrami County Fair in 1983, the six fry bread stands were all lined up next to one another in a row.

"But I made it, and I'm still here," Allen said.

Big Al's Fry Bread and Macho Tacos is the longest-running consecutive vendor at the Beltrami County Fair.

"We haven't missed a year," said Allen, who lives between Cass Lake and Becida.

When Big Al's first joined the fair, it was 1983 and the fair was still being held near where the Target store now stands.

Allen's primary business comes from auctions, at which he serves lunch and snacks to those needing refreshments. But, he also serves food at Fourth of July events at the waterfront on Lake Bemidji and other area events.

"The first place I started was at the Cass Lake Water Carnival," he said. "We did that one year and then started at Beltrami County and Hubbard County (fairs)."

Since the Beltrami County Fair moved to its current location alongside U.S. Highway 71, Allen said Big Al's has remained in the same location every year.

He said he has seen many changes at the Beltrami County Fair - and in his own menu.

The "really big success," he said, has been the addition of homemade wild rice hot dish. Other recent additions have included chicken and french fries. Everything offered at Big Al's is made fresh to order.

It usually takes about seven people to staff the stand throughout the fair weekend. And Big Al's has certainly become a family business. Allen's daughter, grandsons, sister and niece all pitch in to help for the event.

Allen originally paid $1 to invest in a fryer.

"Now I have three concession trailers fully equipped," he said.