Bob Ankenbauer of Coon Rapids grilling ribeyes at the Carroll County Fair on Sunday. The fair is time when the Ankenbauer family gets together every year to help out at the stand and have time with one another. This year the stand went through 874 ribeyes.&nbsp; <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photos by Randi Reeder</em></span>
Bob Ankenbauer of Coon Rapids grilling ribeyes at the Carroll County Fair on Sunday. The fair is time when the Ankenbauer family gets together every year to help out at the stand and have time with one another. This year the stand went through 874 ribeyes.  Daily Times Herald photos by Randi Reeder
Monday, July 16, 2012

Bob Ankenbauer loves cooking and has no plans to stop anytime soon. After all, he’s only 55.

When at the Carroll County Fair, the most-anticipated attractions are the livestock shows, the Figure 8 races and of course, fair food with Ankenbauer’s stand being one that is frequented for its top-dollar menu item — the $6 rib eye steak sandwich.

Mmm mmm.

“We started making those sandwiches, and the people just loved them, so we’ve been making them ever since,” said Ankenbauer, who has had a stand at the Carroll County Fair since 2002.

After his first four years selling at the fair, Ankenbauer took his hobby of cooking and started his own catering business called Easy Street Catering, which is based out of Coon Rapids. After working at Syngenta Seeds for 33 years as an area manager, Ankenbauer wanted to make more time for his family.

“You know I’m only 55, I don’t feel old and have a lot of years left, so I want to enjoy life and have time for my kids and grandkids.”

Ankenbauer currently works part time at White Rock Conservancy along with having his catering business.

Easy Street Catering has fed groups of 12 to 1,000 at a time, with the largest event to date being a Syngenta Seeds event where he served 1,000 of his 9-ounce rib eye sandwiches. At the fair, Ankenbauer sold through 874, the meat for which he purchases from local grocery store Frohlich’s Super Valu.

So why the fair?

“I just wanted to come down here and cook for the community,” said Ankenbauer. Plus, for 25 years before that, Ankenbauer had worked at another food stand, Talman’s, making eggs and sausage on a griddle for breakfast and for lunch grilled hamburgers, homemade potato salad and baked beans.

The biggest reason Ankenbauer cooks at the fair is it has been a time for his family to come together for the past 10 years. Every year close friends and family members come to the fair and help with the stand.

“This here brings our family back together — it’s a togetherness we have for four days,” Ankenbauer laughs. “Don’t get me wrong, there are arguments, but we all get through it.”

Ankenbauer’s son Ryan even comes down from Wisconsin with his daughter Emma.

“She always brings a friend, a different friend and they sleep in our camper outside,” said Ankenbauer.

Now 13, Emma helps with everything from the cash register to making sandwiches. Other members who help are Ankenbauer’s wife Teresa, daughter Amber and her two sons Harrison and Landon, and son Josh.

Bob Ankenbauer’s stand also sells 1/3-pound hot dogs and seasoned hamburgers, among others.

“There’s a lot of eating places here, and I am just part of them,” Ankenbauer said.

One of the stands he frequents is run by a local chapter of the National Tri-T Society, inside the Exhibit Building which serves the Fair Burger — a loose-meat sandwich — and tacos in a bag.

The Tri-Ts send two to four girls to a YMCA summer camp near Boone and has made the Fair Burger from a secret recipe for 55 years. It is their largest fundraiser of the year.

“Tri-Ts have been here forever and they raise money for that. Their specialty is the Fair Burger, which is really good,” Ankenbauer said.

The stand is run by the women who pick fourth-grade girls to go to a summer camp and also support them throughout the year giving Christmas gifts and scholarships.

“We send girls that may not have the opportunity to go to camps,” said Diane Andersen, who has worked at the Tri-T stand since 1995.

Before the fair begins, the women get together to prepare 320 pounds of meat for the famous Fair Burger and tacos in a bag.