The Newest State Fair Vendor: OOf-da Tacos
For 22 years, Greg and Donna Parenteau have traveled the state selling their beloved tacos with dreams of earning a spot in the big leagues.
PHOTO COURTESY OF OOF-DA TACOS FACEBOOK PAGE
Greg and Donna Parenteau know a thing or two about patience.
For the past 22 years, the couple has traveled the state to county fairs and festivals with their food truck, OOf-da Tacos. While their business thrived at these smaller events, the couple always had their sights set on the ultimate stage for food vendors: the Minnesota State Fair. Finally, after years of patience and persistence, the Parenteaus will fulfill that dream. The business will be one of only two new food operators to premiere at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.
From the food truck’s Minnesota-inspired name to their specialty fried delicacies, OOf-da Tacos embodies the spirit of the State Fair. Parenteau’s OOf-da Tacos, based in Erskine, Minn., is one of three franchises of OOf-da Tacos Inc., founded in 1982 by Don and Sharon Ramberg. Greg Parenteau said that the business’ name was inspired by Sharon, who says “Uff da” in almost every sentence.
“We are so Minnesota-born," says Parenteau. “‘Uff da’ is just a slang they use every day in Northwest Minnesota."
The vendor’s signature dish is, not-surprisingly, the OOf-da Taco, made with fresh, fried bread, seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, olives, shredded lettuce and grated Minnesota cheddar cheese. At the Fair, they will also sell taco salads, buckets of nachos, nacho supremes, and soft drinks.
“Once [customers] get past our crazy name and try it, they are going to come back and pass on our word to others, “says Parenteau.
OOf-da Tacos’ journey to the State Fair started 33 years ago, when Parenteau’s father first filled out a vendor application. When Parenteau took over the family business 11 years later, he began the application process all over again.
Since joining the franchise, the Parenteaus have worked the county fair circuit across the state, and have joined several fair associations and organizations to build up their business’ reputation and popularity. All the traveling, mingling, and improvements paid off this summer when they got a life-changing call from Dennis Larson, the State Fair's License Administration Manager.
33 years after the Parenteaus first applied to the Fair, OOf-da Tacos was finally in.
After Larson called, Parenteau immediately told his wife. She couldn’t stop screaming from excitement.
“I think it’s just really something else,” he exclaims. “I dreamt of this but I didn’t think it would actually happen.”
In preparation for his biggest audience yet, Parenteau said he began ordering new equipment and graphics for the trailer as soon as he heard the news. He said he is looking forward to gaining more local and national recognition from the fair’s visitors.
“This is the golden ring for our business, it really validates me as a business and as a success,” he said.
Beyond this recognition, Parenteau said that his satisfied customers make life traveling in a taco truck worthwhile.
“It’s so rewarding right away to see their smiling face, it’s something I don’t have to think about really hard,” he gleams. “I don’t want to do anything else.”