Fixing meals for entertainers at the Kansas State Fair gave Valera Morgan, of Marion, a chance to see a different side of the stars than the public normally sees.
Performers’ managers often blustered and bellowed that their clients should receive special treatment, but the stars were universally normal, Morgan said. For 19 years, she managed a kitchen that catered to musicians the state fair brought in for concerts.
She shared some of her most memorable stories Friday. One of the Oak Ridge Boys called her “Grandma” because of the home-style food she made.
One year, Morgan heard country singer Aaron Tippin liked ham and beans, so she cooked a batch for lunch. The singer didn’t eat lunch there that day, but at dinner he turned down steak in favor of the leftover ham and beans, Morgan said.
Another year singer Buddy Jewell wanted to help cook eggs for breakfast, she said.
Morgan has two albums full of photos signed by the stars she cooked for. She also has some unusual items, including a liner Garth Brooks took out of a new cowboy hat he bought.
She never felt star-struck because the performers usually didn’t act like they were anything special.
“I have held Garth Brooks’ first little girl,” she said.
She put in her last year at the fair in 2003. The pay wasn’t good, and the job was difficult, but it was a wonderful experience, she said.
“I miss it when it comes fair time,” she said. She plans to go to the state fair this year to catch up with friends.
Many of country music’s biggest stars enjoyed Morgan’s meals, but she has never been to the capital of country music.
“Someday I’d like to go to Nashville,” she said. “I’ve never been there. I’m 85 years old now, so I don’t think I’ll ever get to go.”