By STEVEN SPEARS
(SEDALIA, Mo., digitalBURG) — Every year, situated across from the Budweiser Stage, nestled between stands selling corn dogs and root beer floats, is the Missouri State Fair’s only all-volunteer food vendor.
Fairgoers who stopped by the Sedalia Shrine Club stand to grab “the original” all meat coney dog or a Shrine burger any way they like it during the 11-day fair were greeted by one of the many volunteers working to raise money for children treated at Shriners Hospitals. From 5-11 p.m. that volunteer was Pat Rinehart.
“We’re open 24 hours and so we have four shifts,” Pat said while giving a customer a refill. “I work the 5 to 11, sometimes 11 o’clock doesn’t come soon enough.”
Pat has been helping the Shriners for more than 10 years, heading to the fair every night from her day job as a real estate agent, but has been coming to the fair every year for about 40 years.
“My parents always came down at least one time, and that was when you’d get up at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Pat said. “My mom would probably spend all night cooking, you’d come and you’d have a picnic, and then you’d come into the fair, then maybe you can go back to the car, took a nap or ride the trams, my dad always went to the races and then we’d travel back home.
“I was a city girl, so I didn’t raise cattle or horses or anything. And so it was just an outing kind of a vacation for us.”
Pat said when her family moved to Sedalia, they started coming to the State Fair every year. She said she continued her family’s tradition when her three daughters were growing up. Now that her daughters are grown, she said she finds joy in helping her husband make a difference with the Shriner stand.
All the money made at the Shriner stand, whether from sales or tips, goes toward transportation costs for local children being treated at Shriners Hospitals. The nearest one to Sedalia is in St. Louis.
“All that money up there goes to the transportation, transporting the kids,” said Jerry Fillinger, a member of the Sedalia Shriners, as he grilled up a Shriner burger for a regular. “Because they don’t have to pay anything to go to the hospital. It’s all free and we transport.”
Fillinger said working six-hour shifts over a sweltering grill each year is worth it when he thinks about the impact it has.
“We do it for the kids, that’s why the Shrine is there, we do it all for the kids,” he said.
Pat said a lot of the volunteers aren’t Shriners – they’re either wives of Shriners or friends of friends. She said she hopes more people get involved in the future, because the cause is the most important thing.
“(The Shriners) do need some younger people stepping up and helping,” Pat said between taking orders and busing counters. “Because some of us are getting old in the back and the hips and we had one lady that had a kidney stone, and she had to quit… But she tried to help.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Sedalia Shrine Club during next year’s State Fair can reach them by calling 660-826-1551.