TOPSFIELD – When someone orders an Oy Vey Sandwich, the volunteer at the counter shouts, “One Oy Vey Sandwich!” All the volunteers shout back, “Oy vey!” After the sandwich is prepared, the volunteer shouts, “Oy Vey Sandwich going out!” and the staff again cry out in response: “Oy vey!”
The Oy Vey Sandwich – a gargantuan combination of pastrami, brisket, and latkes topped in chili, all on a bulkie roll – is one of the most popular items at the B’nai B’rith of Peabody booth, which has served Jewish food at the Topsfield Fair for the past 50 years. In addition to serving classics like matzah ball soup, hot pastrami sandwiches, knishes, and potato latkes – all $10 or under – the popular food stand (which is not kosher) also serves as a positive representation of the Jewish community to the approximately 500,000 people who attend the fair each year.
“It is the Jewish community booth,” said Marc Freedman, a financial advisor from Peabody who has run the booth for the past eight years with his wife Laura, and has volunteered at the booth since he was 14. “We have 140 volunteers who represent a multitude of Jewish organizations throughout the community. People from 16 to 94, 95 years old are working at this booth. They represent all different segments of the Jewish community here on the North Shore. The statement we make is that the Jewish community is alive and well on the North Shore.”
The booth would not be possible without the 140 volunteers, who work in four-hour shifts serving long, snaking lines. In addition to the Oy Vey, they prepare and distribute crowd favorites like Hebrew National hot dogs, chili dogs, French fries, hamburgers, bagels, kugel, and brisket (just the way Freedman’s Grandma Phyllis used to make it).
In return for their help, volunteers receive a day’s pass to the fair, free parking, and unlimited free noshing rights throughout their shift. They also get to donate $18 of the booth’s profits to a Jewish organization of their choice. Last year, the booth donated approximately $6,000, and it has donated $25,000 since the initiative began.
“People get to eat, connect with the community have a good time – it is the best money we spend all year, and one of the funnest days,” said Freedman.
Speaking of fun, this year will mark the second annual hot dog eating contest, which attracted over 1,000 spectators last year. On Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m. on the Trianon Stage, the first 15 people to sign up can participate. For a prize of $201 and a lifetime of bragging rights, contestants have seven minutes to down as many quarter-pound hot dogs as possible before a screaming crowd. According to Freedman, last year’s winner scarfed down eight.
The contest is just one example of how the booth has grown from a simple hot dog stand. “Over the years, [the booth] has grown tremendously through the number of volunteers, and the demand for good quality food at the fair, at a good price,” said Freedman.
The Topsfield Fair runs from Oct 4-14 on Old Route 1. If you would like to volunteer at the B’nai B’rith Booth, email firstname.lastname@example.org.