Food is always one of the highlights of any festival...or it ought to be. And much of the nostalgia for county fairs comes from the wonderful tastes and smells emanating from the grills and the trucks: thedeep fried funnel cakes, the crispy trays of tempura-battered veggies, the long ears of roasted corn dipped deep into melted butter. Yum!

But there's little as tempting at the upcoming Sandwich Fair as the iconic and delicious Lemon Shake-Up. Year after year, its a fair day "must have". The quintessential fair food item to wash away the sugary, the salty and, of course, the dusty heat of the fairgrounds.

And next weekend, as the event kicks off its 131st year from Sept. 4-8, the fair's annual lemon shake-up stand, operated by Open Door Rehabilitation Center, celebrates its own milestone – 50 years serving, shaking and smiling, at the Sandwich Fair.

The Open Door lemon shakeup stand first began as an information booth to educate the public on Open Door’s mission. Always manned by volunteers, the stand has experimented with selling different food items since its 1969 inception.

“The first year we started selling popcorn,” said Dave Baker, past Open Door executive director. “Along the way, we tried nachos with cheese, chili, coffee – none of which did well enough to keep.”

"It was the late 1970s or very early 1980s, when the stand began to sell lemon shakeups. I remember volunteering at the stand as a teenager,” said Dan Grandgeorge.

His parents, the late Bud and Gladys Grandgeorge, spearheaded the idea of selling lemon shakeups at the stand.

“Dad was on the board, and decided shakeups would would be a good fit for a fundraiser. He was always looking for creative ways to help raise money for Open Door.”

Over the years, the booth doubled in size, and liquid lemon juice was added to the recipe for speed and consistence.

“In the heyday, we would go through 4,000 cups during the fair. Of course, there were not as many vendors back then,” said Baker. “We were also the first stand to offer bottled water, which was a huge seller.”

The last major item to be added for sale was Rosati’s pizza by the slice, which has proven to be a real crowd pleaser.

A special souvenir cup will be offered to commemorate the golden anniversary.

“Fairgoers have asked us about refillable cups for years, so I thought our 50th year at the fair would be the perfect time to give it a try,” said Rita Potter, Open Door executive director.

The tumbler holds two servings of their unique, lemon shakeup recipe and will feature the new Open Door logo. This special cup was made possible by the following sponsors: Rosati’s, Gjovik Chevy GMC Buick, State Farm – Bob Wright, and the First National Bank.

The Open Door lemon shakeup stand can be found directly behind the main bleachers along the track, across from the Main Event Ticket Office.

Anyone interested in a sponsorship or willing to volunteer for a shift at the fair can visit odrc.org or call 815-786-8468.

For a full lineup of events and activities at the Sandwich fair, visit www.sandwichfair.com