I volunteered at the All the Milk You Can Drink booth at the Minnesota State Fair on Monday, Aug. 30. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a few years now. Though I used to attend the state fair regularly, I hadn’t been for about 10 years. This seemed like a good excuse to go to the state fair while also helping out the dairy industry.
The milk booth is a project of the Midwest Dairy Association. The University of Minnesota Ag Education Club organized the volunteers. In the weeks leading up to the fair, when I would mention that I was volunteering in the milk booth, I was surprised by how many people commented that it was one of their favorite parts of the fair. It also gets mentioned frequently as one of the best bargains at the fair.
When I arrived for my shift, the morning volunteers got our orientation. As you might expect, hygiene and sanitation is a major consideration. The supervisor went through the rules – each customer pays $1 for their first glass of milk. They can have as many refills as they want. But they can’t share the glass with others, and they can’t come back later for more refills. Make sure you make the correct change. Watch out for scammers – they give you a $10 and when you give them their change, they claim they gave you a $20. (We were told to keep the original payment on the counter until we’ve given the customer his change.) We could accept anything up to $20. If someone wanted to pay with a $50 or $100, we had to call a supervisor.
I did get one guy who said the only bill he had was $100. He stood there and drank three glasses of milk (two white, one chocolate) while the shift supervisor looked over the bill to make sure it was legit. Then he got $99 change and went on to the rest of the fair.
One kid who bought a glass of chocolate milk from me had what looked like a Mohawk haircut that was growing back out. So it was pretty distinctive. When he came back for a second glass, he said “That wasn’t me who was up here a few minutes ago.” “Yes it was,” I said. “I recognize your haircut.” When he came back for his next glass, I said to him, “Your brother was here just a minute ago. He looks just like you.” The kid said, “No, that was me.” When he came back for a fourth glass I said, “Wow. Four glasses. You must be pretty thirsty.” “No,” he said. “We have eight in our family, but my dad said he doesn’t want a glass.” Oh. That was the last glass he got from me.
I had several people ask for half white and half chocolate. So I started asking which they wanted me to pour first. One kid said it didn’t matter, so I said, “How do you know? For this glass, I’ll put in white first and then chocolate. For your next glass, I’ll put in the chocolate first. Then you can tell me which is better.” Sure enough, when he came back for his second glass, he reminded me to put in the chocolate first.
Sometimes, a customer would ask for one white and one chocolate. “Which do you want first,” I’d ask. Most just acted confused by the question. But one kid was very definite - “Chocolate first.” I poured the chocolate and asked, “Whose is this?” “Mine,” he said. I poured the white. “Whose is this,” I asked. “His,” the kid said, nodding toward his dad. Then he put $2 on the counter. “You’re paying?” I asked. “Yup,” said the kid. “Cool,” I replied.
With breaks and everything, I worked for only about 2 1/2 hours. I sold 166 cups. But I couldn’t keep track of how many refills. The most refills I counted was four (not counting the kid who was actually sharing his milk with his family).