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Daily Journal
     June 11, 2020      #31-163 KDJ

Local woman will open her concession trailer this

By Chris Breach

Lauren Conway-Janssen, 26, has worked at a concession stand at fairs and festivals since she’s been able to walk.

Yet, after graduating from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, she went to Eastern Illinois University in search of a new career path. It was short-lived.

“I went to college and I was in my first semester, and the old owners of this [concession] trailer called my parents and said we want one of your kids to buy it,” Conway-Janssen said. “I said, ‘Dad, I can’t drop out of college.’ And he said, ‘Yes, you can. You’ll never get this opportunity again.’ I was there for one semester, I was a straight-A student, I left, and I’m back in the carnival world. Here I am!”

With most of the fairs and festivals canceled for the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Conway-Janssen will pull her trailer into the parking lot at Dralle Chevrolet Buick at 103 S. Harlem Ave. (Illinois Route 50), in Peotone on Friday and Saturday afternoon. She specializes in ice cream and desserts, and she’ll be selling soft serve and hand-dipped ice cream, strawberry shortcake, apple dumplings with cinnamon and ice cream, sundaes and floats. She will also have lemon shake-ups and corn dogs.

It’s in her blood. Lauren is the daughter of Pam and Dan Conway, of Bourbonnais, longtime concessionaires.

“I have been in the concession business my entire life,” said Conway-Janseen, whose family has owned a stand at the Will County Fair for years. “I was born and raised selling fried vegetables, and then we had corn dogs-elephant ears stand as well.

“This is my eighth year owning my ice cream stand. … I bought it from the old owners, and it has been at the Will County Fair for like 30 years.”

She also has regularly worked the Gladfest in Momence, Kendall County Fair in Yorkville, Grundy County Corn Festival in Morris, Oglesby Summer Funfest and has been at the Bourbonnais Friendship Fest and the Merchant Street MusicFest in the past among others.

“I normally start the second week in June and go all the way through October,” Conway-Janssen said. “My first festival right now is the Will County Fair, which is the last week of August. It’s unheard of that every single one of my fairs in June and July have been canceled. I go all over Illinois and Indiana.”

So she had to improvise. She got an OK from the Will County Health Department to be at Dralle’s on weekends in June. She’ll be there Friday and Saturday afternoons and maybe Sunday.

“We’re going to do the whole social distancing thing, and I’m just trying ...,” Conway-Janssen said. “I’m losing a lot of money, and it sucks, but honestly, all I know is going to fairs every single week. I’ve never had a whole summer off. I don’t even know what to do with myself, so I’m like, ‘I need to open up.’”

Although she does concessions full time, her husband, Brian, is a farmer, and they sell sweet corn at roadside stands, service some grocery stores and own some rental property.

“I’m very fortunate that I don’t have all my eggs in one basket,” she said. “A lot of my friends do only concessions, so they’re freaking out a lot more than I am.

“It’s fun,” she said of owning a concessions trailer. “I go from town to town and see all my friends. It’s all part of my carny family or whatever you want to call it, and I’m not going to see any of them. It’s sad, so we’ve all been meeting and going to lunch because we’re not going to see each other.”

They can meet up with her this weekend at Dralle’s.

“My trailer is 100 percent desserts,” Conway-Janssen said. “They all know me as Corndog Conway, like my whole life. Everyone wants me to sell corn dogs at Dralle’s, so I’m going to.”

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