The State Fair of Texas opened Friday but vendors warned the event has a Texas-sized problem: a lack of help.
"The thing we are most frightened of is keeping up with the customers," said Christi Erpillo, who owns Fernies Funnel Cakes and the Dock along with her sister, Johnna McKee. "We are still hiring as we speak."
The sisters' mother started the business several decades ago, and the family is now serving at the fair for their 52nd year.
"If we can make it to noon [Friday], we may sit down and cry, but it will be for a variety of reasons," McKee said. "We may be crying because we don’t have staff, we might be crying because we have too many customers."
Jack Pyland, who owns Jack's French Frys, expressed his own hiring troubles and concerns about keeping up with business.
"Whether we are ready or not, the fair is going to start," he said, before explaining his situation. "I usually hire 130 people. Two weeks ago, I had 30. I was short by 100 people."
Pyland said he was able to hire roughly 40 people in the past week, but his business is still far from being fully staffed. He noted that his family has served at the event for 70 years.
The hiring shortage impacting business this year is another blow to the vendors that served at the fair last year, when it was a drive-through event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There was no revenue," Pyland said, recalling the 2020 Texas state fair. "All the revenue we took to do the drive-thru, it wasn’t a profit – just to keep the brand alive."