While most people attending the World Equestrian Games are from Kentucky and elsewhere in the United States, I got to meet nice people from at least six foreign countries last week while I worked as a volunteer for the Rotary Clubs of Kentucky during my vacation from the Register.
You may have missed it amid all the WEG hype, but Rotary International has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio in the four nations where it persists. The Rotary Clubs of Kentucky agreed to provide volunteer labor for a WEG food vendor, which will make a donation for every hour volunteered.
Last Tuesday, I worked in the burrito-serving line in a pavilion next to the main area where WEG competitions are taking place. There also were hamburger and barbecue lines in the same location.
You’ve heard the expression “slinging hash,” well, from about 11:45 a.m. until 2:15 p.m., we slung out burritos as fast as we could. For most of the time, the zig-zag line of customers in front of the counter was five rows deep.
I gained a new respect for workers in fast-food restaurants.
By late afternoon, I finally got to sample our product, and in all modesty, we served up a great burrito. I guess that’s why no one complained about the $11.75 price.
I also volunteered on Thursday, expecting more of the same. Instead, I got assigned to a cash register at a snack stand in the WEG Trade Show area. It served prepackaged wraps and salads, plus bottled drinks, coffee and tea (hot or iced).
That work was steady, but less fast-paced, so I was able to interact more with customers.
Whenever someone had a different accent or wore hats or shirts supporting another country’s team, I asked where they were from. I chatted with nice folks from Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Russia and South Africa.
I also met people from Vermont and New York. They have different accents, too.
As they purchased wraps for lunch, I told two blokes who work for a British saddle vendor that the Queen had visited Lexington at least twice. They said they had accompanied her on one of those trips. At 5:45 p.m., one of the Brits came back and ordered four cups of hot tea.
“I expected you here at 4 p.m. for tea,” I said.
They had too many customers to take a tea break, he said.
“We’ve been gasping for tea,” he said as he hurried away.
We had only decaffeinated tea and green tea, so I doubt they got their fix.
I asked a young woman wearing a hat and vest for the Irish Equestrian team if she was a fan or team member. Turns out she was a competitor. In reply to my question, she said she was having a great time in Kentucky, and I told her we very happy to have her here.
She then reached into her pocket and pulled out one of the pins that competitors trade with each other and handed it to me.
“I’ve very few of those left,” she said.
We should always treat our guests well, but the World Equestrian Games is a chance to show the world that Kentucky is more than bourbon and fried chicken.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6622.