As the noon hour arrived on opening day of the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale, attendance was noticably up from last year at this time, and many in attendance felt it was due in part to the arrival of one of Ferndale's finest coming home at long last.
Guy Fieri is a celebrity chef, author, and TV personality who came back to the Humboldt County Fair to pay tribute to his hometown and grammar school. Fieri is the son of Jim and Penny Ferry whom many know from owning Dave's Saddlery in Ferndale who now live in Marin County. Guy Fieri also shared the Ferndale experience with his younger sister, Morgan, or 'Mimi.' Morgan also lives in Marin County and is reportedly recently dealing with cancer. She is expected to recover and has a large support system.
According to Penny, Guy's mother, "We still have our home here in Ferndale and for us nothing has changed much." Mrs. Ferry exclaimed, "We knew at two years old we had a three-ring circus and it is just fun to see where it is going."
Fieri began his culinary career at the age of 10 after developing "The Awesome Pretzel," a pushcart concession stand he operated during local venues, including the Humboldt County Fair.
Young Fieri worked his pretzel cart over the next six years and earned enough money to fund his Junior year in High School in Chantilly, France as an exchange student to further his interest in the culinary arts. Once home and after graduation from high school, Guy Fieri left the area to attend college at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas to specialize in hospitality management.
After college, Fieri went on to manage Stouffer's Restaurant in Long Beach, Calif. and eventually moved on to district manager of six Louise's Trattoria Chain Restaurants. Settling down in Santa Rosa, Fieri opened his first Johnny Garlic's restaurant with business partner Steve Gruber in 1996. Over time, their chain grew to three in Northern California. The pair developed Tex Wasabi's in 2003 and opened a second location in 2007.
In 2006, Guy Fieri competed in "The Next Food Network Star" earning him his own cooking show, "Guy's Big Bite." 2007 brought a new adventure for Fieri with "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" which became an instant hit and captured his unique personality. Guy is known for many of his catchphrases like "off the hook" and gestures like knuckle sandwiches which is reflected in his cutlery line.
To a stage packed crowd, Guy Fieri answered questions and told jokes. During his talk about his life, Fieri explained how much really goes into an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" when asked if they were filming up here during his stay. "It takes 22-hours of filming to create a 6-minute clip of a location," he said. Fieri said they have filmed over 450 locations and businesses.
Fieri was in town to promote the Humboldt County Fair, talk with Ferndale youth, and unveil his "Awesome Pretzel Cart" he built with the help of his father and family friend at a cost of $10,000. The cart was donated during the barbecue competition to the Ferndale Elementary School 8th grade class for fundraising so it can be handed down from one 8th grade class to the next. After presenting the cart, Fieri encouraged all in attendance to "go buy a pretzel or two and leave a huge tip," and many did as the cart was moved near the main entrance to the fairgrounds. Fieri is passionate about children's nutrition and helped draft California State legislation proclaiming the second Saturday in May as "Cook with Your Kids Day."
Guy Fieri explained during the presentation that the cart represents inspiration and imagination and is the launch to the Guy Fieri Foundation. He went on to express his concern in today's youth and the need to "go back to basics and become entrepreneurs." He closed by saying this is his way of giving back to a school and community who gave so much to him. "Community means everything so donate your time by getting out there and helping. It is some of the best connections you will ever make. Philanthropy is everything!"
Fieri created laughter in stating, "You can live super healthy and get hit by a truck and others eat the pork rinds, drink and live to 100. So I eat, but I do not appreciate the parts of the animal that had a job. Parts that are licked, make sound, push, filter, walk and so on are not for me."
In attendance were Fieri's parents, security crew, manager, wife, and kids. It was easy to pick out the security team as they were wearing black jackets with the statement "Kulinary Gangsta" on the back.
Lori Fieri, Guy's wife, and the female half of the Kulinary Gangsta men wore pink jackets with the statement "Kulinary Queens" on the back. Each jacket included their name on the back and showed a unity and family orientation Fieri is well known for displaying.
"There is never a dull moment and at times it is very intense. Our son Ryder is more like his father and has potential to be a true 'Guy.' Hunter, our older son is more laid back and likes skateboarding."
Prior to interviewing Guy, I had the opportunity to visit with his son Hunter who was set to celebrate his 14th birthday at Ruth Lake with family and friends. Hunter described his father as being, "Pretty cool. I am pretty sad when he is gone, but when he is around he just hangs out with us and it really is not bad at all." Those close to Fieri know that the two rings he wears on his pinky fingers represent his sons.
One fan asked Fieri if he played golf to which Guy responded, "There is not enough beer and balls to get me through 18 holes!" Later, I asked him how his exchange time in France as a high school junior influenced him today. "It had a huge influence on me, and I will tell you that I am not pro war, I am pro country, and until you have been out of the USA you don't realize it. Freedom ain't free baby and this is the best country in the world!"
Back in the dairy barn of the fairgrounds, Fieri said, "This is my hometown, this is my home Fair, I love it, and that's why I came back! I am a father first, chef, restaurant owner, but I am not a salesman. I mean, look at this weather, it is killer and to be here is a great start to being back. I have always believed, if I could just be even half as great as my parents - I am doing ok."
Fieri has many irons in the fire with hosting "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," hosting NBC game show "Minute to Win It," "Guy off the Hook" and authoring two New York Times best-sellers, including his most recent "More Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
Before Guy Fieri left the Fair he had taken over 100 pictures with fans, handed out autographed cards, and signed endless memorabilia. The Fieri team headed to their next stop which brought then to a local watering hole, The Ivanhoe, visiting and buying drinks for locals. Saturday morning started early as Guy Fieri packed up his family and friends to reach back to childhood in a weekend of water play at Ruth Lake off Highway 36.
Ferndale Elementary students stand by to receive a $10,000 pretzel cart donated by Guy Fieri of The Guy Fieri Foundation.