Standing underneath his tent, Wilson Mills calls out to potential customers. It’s a cloudy, cool mid-afternoon day, but that doesn’t stop people at the Pierce County Fair from stopping by to say hello.
“Apples! Who wants apples?,” he calls out with a smile.
Mills has been vending at the Pierce County Fair for 32 years. It’s the longest tenured food vending tent. His tent, Queens Apple, sells all things apples.
He sells sliced apples, apple bratwurst and his signature item; the queens apple.
The dish has apple slices topped with caramel, whipped cream and nuts with a cherry on top. It was a popular item as people lined up to try it.
“Business has been good so far,” Mills said. “It’s only day three but we expect the weekend crowd to give us a boost.”
Mills was one of many vendors selling food at the fair. The fair ran from Aug. 11-14 in Ellsworth.
Attractions for the fair included carnival rides and the 4-H barn. Grandstand events included the Ag-Olympics, a tractor pull and a demolition derby.
The beer garden was a popular spot for people. At the garden, people could relax under a large tent.
Plenty of carnival rides were available too. The tilt-a-whirl and ferris wheel proved to be popular among children.
The 4-H barn provided people with various animals. Cattle, sheep, llamas were all on display. People could also visit the horse barn.
Mills' path to vending food is unique. Born north of Knoxville, Tennessee, Mills used to work in business.
“I used to be a CEO of a small company,” he said. “I got tired of the constant travel so I decided I needed a laid back job.”
Mills said the exhaustion of traveling the world led him to make a career change. He added the death of his wife made him want to be done with the business world.
Employee Katie Jones helps with orders. She said Mills loves to meet people and share stories.
“He’ll chat your ear off if you stop by,” Jones said.
Mills tries to make every customer interaction special. One example occurred when he was using the apple peeler for a young girl.
“Watch this,” Mills said to the young girl.
As the girl was reaching for her peeled apple, Mills instructed the girl to hold out her thumb. Mills put the peeled apple on her thumb.
“Now you have a convenient way to carry your apple around the fair,” he said with a smile.
The young girl's face lit up as her mother reached into her purse to tip. Mills declined.
“It’s part of my job, I don’t need anything extra,” he said.
Smith said interactions like those are common. She said he loves making people smile.
Mills plans to be back next year, making people smile.