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Things we lost in the pandemic (Pt. 1): Vanishing Vendors

Target Field aisles are now conspicuously silent.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

For years—decades, really—culinary vendors hawking their wares were a staple of the ballpark experience. The phrase “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” is embedded in the sport’s national anthem. Sure, fans could always explore favorites at permanent stands (and perhaps be served by my adolescent father if this took place at Metropolitan Stadium), but on-the-move merchants were an institution unto themselves.

Odd as it may be to think about, I actually have quite a few ballpark memories specifically associated with mobile food minions.

Vendor At South Side Park
Straw hats should be required of all ballpark food vendors
Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Some remembrances…

  • Wally the Beer Man being an absolute institution in Minneapolis
  • The gargantuan hot dog guy who would click his tongs and let the steam pour out of his meaty cauldron like LeBron James tossing chalk
  • Passing wads of cash person-to-person down the aisle and simply assuming it wouldn’t be pocketed
  • Having the twist-off caps of 20 oz. sodas inexplicable removed upon each purchase (to this day I still do not understand that practice)
  • Teasing my younger brother—anticipating a cotton candy purchase—that “we think we see him out in upper-deck center field”.
Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins
Had to be the pink flavor, too
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
  • My grandfather reliably springing for Frosty Malts around the seventh inning stretch.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we all experienced something bizarre: a year without fans in the stands. When paying customers returned in 2021, vendors were absent from the equation. Likely due to social distancing concerns and a workforce labor shortage, such salespeople were replaced by cashless app-ordering.

Truth be told, I’m far from the best person to pass judgement on this switcheroo. Over 50% of my ballpark visits see me bringing my own sandwiches, snacks, and sealed drinks through the gates. But I will say this: Target Field has perhaps the worst concessions experience of any stadium I’ve attended. The shift to QR-code scanning is wrought with outdated equipment and the Delaware North (parent company) pay is so wretched—from what I have heard—that retaining/training quality service workers is impossible. I routinely have one headache after another trying to procure MN ballpark eats. Every year I note this in my end-of-year season ticket holder survey—and every year it is just as bad (if not slightly worse).

So, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the pabulum peddlers are a longed-for commodity or a good-riddance anachronism:


Do you miss in-aisle food vendors?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Yes—bring them back!
    (202 votes)
  • 20%
    No—I’m good without them
    (51 votes)
253 votes total Vote Now