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Not just a place to park: Roadside entrepreneurs abound during S.D. State Fair

Posted: Monday, Sep 2nd, 2013

Most fairgoers can relate that an annual fair-time hassle is finding a place to park amidst the swarming mass of vehicles. That is, unless they have reserved parking.

However, Tony DuBois is there to help. He takes the entire fair-week off of work to serve and accommodate for fairgoers parking and other needs. He offers parking in the shade on his family property that can be reserved a year in advance for campers. Cars can drive “right in” the day-of for only five dollars a day, and new room is always being made for more when there are cancellations.

“I’ve been doing this for 26 years,” said Tony. Before him, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Arlene and Kenny DeJean, ran the annual business.

“Her husband passed away here years ago,” said Tony, of Arlene, “...and I just kind of took it over.”

“You couldn’t meet nicer people,” he said, “If they could get you in — for a car or a camper — They would get you in. They would try anything they could to get you in. I’ve been following that tradition ever since.”

The DeJean’s legacy began more than 45 years ago when they first began offering fair parking. Through it, Arlene has made many long-time friends that come back year after year.

“There’s some that will come now and won’t even go to the fair. They’ll pull up and stop in the middle of the driveway and say ‘I’m going to talk to Arlene, park it where you want,’” said Tony. One camper has been reserving the same spot and returning for 45 years.

DuBois said that one of the challenges they have faced is not having enough power and electricity for the campers.

“Well, in the past before I put more power in,” said Tony, “the campers kept getting bigger and with more power, so we ran them all up the same pole, and the electricity — it popped the main breaker. So I had to deal with that.” They now hook up the campers near the rewired garage and house.

“Actually, my dad rewired the garage,” said DuBois, “he wanted to see more campers here, so he paid for that, and we’ve been giving him his camping spot here free for two years.”

Other problems that DuBois has aimed to fix include directing cars and helping lost fairgoers.

“Three different people just today,” said Tony,”were walking by here on their cell phones saying, ‘where you parked at? Well, right beside you. Where’s that at?’ and I just walked up to them and said ‘let me know where you parked and I’ll try to help you out.’ I try to help everybody out that I can.”

He also has his own ice business and provides ice to those who need it.

“There was a schoolbus parked over on the fairgrounds today and I walked over there and asked them if they had enough ice for what they were doing. I said, ‘you got enough ice to keep the kids cool and everything?’ They said ‘we’re about out.’ So I went and got some bags and threw it over the fence to them. They asked me who I was. I said, ‘doesn’t matter, keep the kids cool,’” said Tony.

He said that during the nights he is “out all night long, just policing everything.”

As for camping prices, he said that he and his neighbor, Todd Johnson, have the cheapest prices at 125 per week.

“We don’t feel like gouging people,” said DuBois. They allow those who drive cars to leave and come back whenever they need to during the day without re-paying. The five dollars covers the entire day.

“You have some people that come — they drank too much in the beer gardens and they’ll sleep in their cars,” said Tony. “They come up and say, ‘hey, I slept in my vehicle, what do I owe you for today?’ I say, ‘nothing’. The only thing I would charge them for is if they were going to stay there all day.”

“We are not out to make a million dollars. Just to help and meet people and make a little money for the mother-in-law. She does make enough to pay her property taxes and insurance. That’s her only goal out of the whole thing,” he said.”I, myself, I get no money out of this. I do it for my mother-in-law.”

For him, it isn’t just providing parking for people, but making friends along the way.

“You see, that’s what I enjoy,” said Tony, “meeting people.”

For the complete article see the 09-01-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 09-01-2013 paper.

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