Last year, Zell Lucas Sr. brought something new and shiny to the fair. It was a brand-new concessions stand to serve the fairgoers that have counted on him and his family serving Italian sausage, Polish sausage and hot dogs for more than 40 years.
The new stand was one of the reasons fair management voted Zell’s as Best in Show for the 2021 N.C. State Fair. “They invested their money back into their concession business and purchased a nice looking stand,” said Letrice Midgett, commercial space administrator for the N.C. State Fair.
The stand was quite an upgrade to the hand-built utility shed with an axle and wheels that Lucas Sr. built when he began his concession business more than 50 years ago. “Before getting a spot at the State Fair, my dad was a vendor at several county fairs in the state,” said Zell Lucas Jr. “In addition to the State Fair, we still do the Pumpkin Festival in Spring Hope and the Blooming Festival in Nashville.”
For the Lucas Family the booth is a family business. Zell Lucas Sr., who was born and raised in Wilson County, works alongside his three sons, their wives and his wife, Malaney.
“Our most popular item is the Italian sausage,” Lucas Jr. said. “We cook it to order with green peppers and onions. We don’t pile it up and leave it cooking – it is made when you order.
“My favorite part of the fair is seeing the look on customers faces when they bite into that goodness, as well as seeing the customers that come back each year,” Lucas Jr. said. “I also love working the grill and making cotton candy and candy apples.”
Lucas Jr. has been helping his dad at the booth since graduating from Enloe High School in 1987. “When I was younger and working at the fair with my dad we had a couple that came to the booth, the wife enjoyed our sausages so much she went into labor that night,” he said. “Since then they have come to see us and enjoy a sausage every year and their daughter is about 25 years old now. The best part of the fair is the people.”
Zell’s Italian Sausage is not the only family-run business operated by the Lucas family. They also own Lucas Transportation Inc., which transports special needs children for Wake County Public Schools. Zell Lucas started the company in 1987 and it now employs 24. “It is a rewarding job,” Lucas Jr. said. “Some of the families we get to know pretty well and they depend on us.”
This year, Zell’s Italian Sausage will move to the grandstand line up area near the MarketPlace Tent. The family is excited about their new location and the fairgoers that may discover them for the first time. “The new move is a big change,” said Lucas Sr. “What stays the same is the Italian sausage. It is good food.”