SKOWHEGAN – Stan McGray took a rainy day Thursday at the Skowhegan State Fair to look back at a quarter-century on the midway.

Stan’s French Fries opened for business at the fair in August 1987.

“The fair life has been good. I’ve made money, had hard roads with the economy, but we still survive with repeat customers,” said McGray, 67.

McGray had to rebuild his business after a fire in March 1999 destroyed the fairgrounds’ original wooden grandstand and briefly took away his livelihood.

“I lost two french fry trailers, three campers and one truck — total loss, no insurance,” he said. “I started new in 1999 all over again. I slowly rebuilt.”

He said his french fries are popular all over Maine, and for good reason.

“We go to the farm and get our own potatoes,” he said. “Say I need 50 bags of potatoes, I go to the farm in Lewiston and Dover-Foxcroft. I grab one bag of potatoes, drive ’em home, try ’em. If they cook good, I call the guy back and say, ‘Good, I need 50 bags.’“

The secret to making good french fries is getting the potatoes fresh, not from cold storage, McGray said.

Named the official french fries of the Skowhegan State Fair a few years ago by fair vice president Mel Blaisdell, Stan’s fries are made in two trailers on prime real estate — one at each entrance to the new grandstand.

“We pay our rent, but it’s a prime location,” he said.

He judges that he’s been treated well by the fair.

“The fair used me good here,” he said, using a local expression, “because we lost everything at this fair and I’m local — born and raised right here in Skowhegan.”

Before the french fry venture, McGray ran a gas station for 10 years on North Avenue. Before that, he drove a taxi in Skowhegan for five years.

McGray said he begins the fair season in June at the Houlton Fair and ends it at the Fryeburg Fair in October, riding much of the time with Smokey’s Greater Shows.

The 194th annual Skowhegan State Fair continues today.

 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

[email protected]