- Charlie Barefoot’s sons, Billy Barefoot and Joe Barefoot, manage their father’s hot dog stand, which began in 1949.
To find a good hot dog at the fair, all one used to have to do was listen for the voice of Charlie Barefoot. “People would just walk around the fair until they heard him,” says Barefoot’s son, Joe Barefoot, who now runs his father’s business—Charlie Barefoot and Sons—with his brother, Billy Barefoot. Since his father’s passing, Joe Barefoot says nobody has been able to duplicate Charlie Barefoot, who called quick quips like, “How ‘bout one?” to people who passed the stand. Even though the vocal days of the business are gone, however, the stand continues to prosper. Charlie Barefoot left his sons a long line of customers.
A farmer by trade from the Cleveland school area of McGee’s Crossroads in Johnston County, Charlie Barefoot opened his stand at the fair in 1949 as a way to create more income for his family. “As a farmer, in the winter and at other times, he looked for other ways to make money,” explains Joe Barefoot, who says that his father also worked part time in a local restaurant. As for the fair, Joe Barefoot explains, his father saw an opportunity. “He loved people and he loved the fair.” And fair people, it seems, loved Charlie Barefoot and his food.
“Some people say that we have fed four generations of their family,” says Joe Barefoot. “We don’t know their names, just their faces. And we’ve seen lots of new members in families over the years, too.” At the Barefoot’s stand, family is what it’s all about.
Joe and Billy Barefoot first began working at the 10-day business as students in high school. “We would take a vacation and run the fair,” Joe Barefoot says, adding that it was “a wonderful vacation.” Today, family members continue to pitch in, including some of Joe and Billy Barefoot’s children, as well as a cousin, Tommy Franciose, who drives to North Carolina from Massachusetts each fall.
As they have since the beginning, Charlie Barefoot and Sons primarily sells hot dogs, with a foot long priced at $5. Over the years, however, the stand has expanded to include Italian and Polish sausages and Philly cheesesteaks. Look for Charlie Barefoot and Sons’ yellow and white tent at Gate 9 near the entrance to the Midway.