State Fair Food Classics: Hill's Roasted Corn on the Cob | Food

State Fair Food Classics: Hill's Roasted Corn on the Cob

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Todd Carter shucks corn behind his familys 41-year-old business.
  • Todd Carter shucks corn behind his family's 41-year-old business.
Rains pounded the state fair in 1969, turning the then-clay midway into mud. In the middle of a downpour, one corn vendor must have looked like he was drowning. “My uncle ran up on a guy selling corn and offered him $600 right then for his stand,” Todd Carter says of his uncle, Hill Carter. “Then he found his brothers and said, ‘Ya’ll owe me $200 apiece.’” The brothers—Dwight and Larry Carter—paid out. The stand, on the other hand, did not.

“The next year was the worst year ever with rain,” Todd Carter explains. “They probably didn’t make $200 the whole fair.” But the brothers returned to Raleigh again the following year in hopes of making a return on their investment, which eventually, with better weather, they did. Todd Carter anticipates that on a good day at the fair the booth currently sells 1,500 to 2,000 ears of corn—a staggering number that is the result of early relationships that the Carter brothers built with fairgoers, plus their willingness to change over time.

The initial plywood booth has been traded for a newer tent and trailer. And 15 years ago, the stand shifted from serving boiled frozen corn to fresh roasted ears. Hill’s, under the direction of Todd Carter and his cousins, Stephen and Julian Carter, now sells fresh squeezed lemonade and orangeade, too.

Hill Carter passed away three years ago, and Larry Carter, Todd Carter’s father, retired two years before that. But this morning, shucking corn behind his family’s 41-year-old business, Todd Carter—on vacation from his usual work at RTP—made it clear that the booth is at the fair to stay, rain or shine. Wearing shades, however, he seemed happy for the sun.

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