Dale Lowman bent slightly over a bubbling vat of canola oil Monday night, waiting for the moment when his french fries would be done just right.
When the moment arrived, he lifted the metal basket out of the boiling oil, waited a moment for the excess liquid to run out and spun around to pour the steaming fries into a basket.
There, they were quickly scooped up, put into containers and given to waiting customers on Monday — the opening day of the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company carnival at the carnival grounds on Twin Arch Road.
Lowman, of Mount Airy, has been making french fries at the carnival for about 30 years, and has been following the same routine since his first batch.
“We haven’t changed a thing as long as I’ve been here,” he said.
They’ll go through about 5,000 pounds of potatoes during the carnival week, he said. The carnival runs through Saturday.
The fries are soaked in a metal washtub before each individual spud is put onto a metal slicer mounted on the wall and cut into pieces.
For Lowman, making french fries runs in the family.
He’s the third generation of his family to do it, and his son, three sisters and a brother-in-law all help out.
“It’s kind of a family affair,” Lowman said.
The french fries are the fire company’s top seller at the carnival, which is the company’s major fundraiser for the year, said company spokesman Doug Alexander.
Estimates on attendance are difficult since they don’t charge admission, but the company generall hopes to raise about $90,000 from the event each year, he said.
Over the years, some of the money raised has gone to paying off the company’s fire station, and they just made the final payment on the $2.2-million mortgage last week, he said.
Now, they’ll work to pay off the $1.1-million combined cost of a new fire engine, tanker truck and utility truck they bought last year.
This is the 85th year the Mount Airy company has held a carnival, bringing with it about 30 rides and attractions.
Wayne Buckingham of Frederick said he’s been coming to the carnival for more than 30 years.
A graduate of Mount Airy High School, he said it’s a good chance to see former classmates and catch up.
When he was younger, he used to come to ride the rides, but “Now, it’s to eat, socialize. Sometimes to listen to the music,” Buckingham said.
The carnival is a chance for the community to get together and support a great cause in the fire company, said Mount Airy Mayor Patrick Rockinberg, who did a stint in dunk tank Monday night.
“I think everybody in Mount Airy looks forward to this carnival the way they do Christmas,” he said.