Hungry? look for a giant mug at Stampede

If a ginormous rootbeer float won't get you to the 2007 Walla Walla Stampede, nothing will.

That's what Bernard Lind believes, and who's to say he's not right? This will be the debut appearance in Walla Walla of Lind's Concessions' A&W Root Beer stand, the only one like it anywhere, Lind said.

At 12-feet high, the custom-made giant mug is a real crowd pleaser, he said from his Cowiche, Wash., home. Not only does it dispense -- via much smaller humans -- trademark floats, but also frozen, chocolate bananas and other sodas.

It's one of three stands Lind will be bringing along to this week's stampede -- he and his wife, Julieanne, also will sell elephant ears, butter-battered mushrooms, ribbon fries and other goodies.

But it's the hand-dipped, foot-long corndogs he markets best, said Lind, 45. "It's a recipe my dad started in 1949. The ingredients and I can't tell you those makes it like a meal. It's a wonderful flavor."

He has customers who wait all year for Lind's Concessions to show up at the numerous festivals the business hits in 47 weeks on the road to buy the famous com dog, Lind said.

The husband and wife team love to oblige. It's the family's sole means of support, something more rare these days than not, he believes. "There's not too many of us left anymore, very few do it for a living. We're a dying breed."

It's more likely today's concessionaire is someone supplementing a 9-to-5 job, or a group raising money, Lind said. "This pays my house mortgage, my insurance, my . car, my dental work. It's a whole different lifestyle."

Don't mistake his crew for "carnies," however. "We don't sleep under our trailers. If I can't make enough money for a motel..."

His dad, the original corn-dog king, warned his son against living the funnel-cake life. To no avail, Lind explained. "I was born into this. I'm spoiled, I like working for myself."

Coming to the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is a ritual he wouldn't miss. He's pleased the festival was moved to the Walla Walla County fairgrounds, as well. "It's a wonderful place to have it. I think (organizers) put on a very good entertainment package for the public."

In addition, there is plenty of help on hand, and electricity and space available for concession setup. "In other places; this is a nightmare," Lind noted. "A nightmare."

He has one suggestion for organizers, however. Adding free tethered-balloon rides on Sunday would help the stampede stay strong through three entire days, something he knows is a goal for the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce, Lind said. But the huge root-beer stand ought to help, as well, he figures. "That mug won't be at the (Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days). I have to be in Montana," Lind said.

It would be a shame to miss I out, he added. "What we use is a secret. Well, I can tell you. I use root beer ice cream. It's much better than vanilla and you can't get it in Walla Walla. I have to truck it in."

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