Charlie’s Foods part of fair for 50 years

ESCANABA — For the past 50 years Charlie’s Foods have been a staple at the Upper Peninsula State Fair. The tradition began for Charlie Miller and his wife Mary long before this, though.

Charlie’s father, and grandfather worked in the carnival foods business before him, while Mary’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did the same.

With Charlie and Mary’s children and grandchildren working the trailers, this is a six generation tradition. Miller’s introduction into the family business was working at fairgrounds with his father.

After getting married, Miller and his wife went into the concessions business on their own.

Although they travel to fairs around the country all summer long, they have served at the Upper Peninsula State Fair longer than nearly anywhere else.

“We booked the fair as one of our first and have kept it ever since.” He said.

Miller discovered the U.P. State Fair while at a Chicago fair convention.

“A friend of my uncle said he was giving it up and that it was a good fair. He asked if anyone needed it.” Miller said.

Over the 50 years he has run his concessions business, he says a lot has changed, specifically regarding employees.

“They’ve been hard to find. We’re always having to break in new people. Nobody really wants to work all summer like they used to.”

Despite the difficulties, one of the greatest highlights for Miller are the people.

“You see them once a year and you get to know them. I don’t remember all of the employees I’ve had for a week, but their grandkids will still come ask for Charlie when they need a job.”

Miller says he always talks to the kids and does his best to remember the parent or grandparent he had once employed.

“All the people I know from Escanaba… there’s always a good relationship. There’s nice people at the fair.”