PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The reimagined Colorado State Fair began Friday in Pueblo with a unique, first-time event -- a drive-thru offering fair food favorites.
Because of the popularity of elephant ears, cotton candy, turkey legs and other treats, five vendors (the number was limited to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic) set up at the fairgrounds to provide the food.
The event was a huge success, with a dozen vehicles lined up outside the gate waiting for it to open, and longer lines inside during the lunch and dinner rushes.
"I think there will be more locals around here, coming in to get their fix," said Elizabeth Sexton-Drake, the second customer in line. "But it's important to keep it going. It's part of Pueblo, it's part of making sure the kids' year is complete."
When the gate closed at 7 p.m., there were still more than 100 vehicles waiting to be served. The last customers didn't get their food orders until shortly after 8 p.m.
After going through the gate, customers pulled up to three stations with menus where workers took orders, processed payment and distributed tickets for the food.
Entering the orders on computers slowed the process down as some customers waited as long as 15 minutes to receive their tickets, only to have to wait another 10 minutes in the vendor lines.
"It's interesting," said Shelly Lasavio, of the Pass Key restaurant, one of the vendors. "Hopefully, it's going to work out for everybody. Maybe they'll get a little faster taking the tickets up there, but we'll see how it goes. At least people can still come get their fair food."
At times, the fair staff -- and even the KRDO NewsChannel 13 crew -- were needed to help distribute orders to customers.
"Hey, cameraman!" a cook said. "Can you hand these drinks out? I can't reach them and I'm too busy in here."
"Everybody's making adjustments right now, based on how it went for lunch, and they're bringing on more staff to make it flow smoothly," said Scott Stoller, the fair's general manager.
Bill Toler, who sold the ever-popular turkey legs, said demand was so high that he had trouble keeping up.
"I would still have turkey legs cooking in the oven," he said. "It wasn't that we ran out, it was that I couldn't sell any more until they were done. We were a lot busier than I expected."
The driver of an ice cream truck circled the area several times, apparently longing to get in on the action.
"I would have made a killing in there today," she said. "How can I be one of the vendors? How did they choose the vendors? I wanted to go in and eat but the lines were too long."
Customers must wear masks, remain in their vehicles and enter via Gate 9 located on Beulah Avenue. Vehicles will follow a one way traffic pattern, order their food and exit via Gate 6 onto Small Avenue.
All participants are asked to stay in their vehicles to maintain social distancing. All vehicles must exit the grounds after ordering and receiving food to enjoy at home. No walk up orders will be accepted. No public restrooms restrooms will be open.
The fair food drive-thru will be open through the weekend from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Monday from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. However, Stoller said if the rest of the weekend is as busy as Friday was, the vendors will return for the fair's closing weekend.
Because of safety measures required during the pandemic, many traditional fair events have been cancelled or are not open to the public. Livestock shows Friday were open only to judges and animal owners.
However, online events and contests started Friday. For more information, visit: https://www.coloradostatefair.com/.