Mrs. Gibble’s dressing a hit at PA Farm Show

Vernice and Kim Eshleman (center) of Mrs. Gibble’s Restaurant were honored at a special breakfast Wednesday at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg as winners of the 2012 Best Marketplace Award for their display. Presenting the award were PA Agriculture Secretary George Greig (left) and Farm Show representative Deb Trump.

Kim and Rod Eshleman, owners of Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant, are tired, but it's a happy tired. They and their family just spent a week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show as PA Preferred exhibitors. In that category, all agricultural commodities were produced in the state. They gave away 25,000 samples of sweet and sour salad dressing and sold 104 cases of the homemade product, give or take. The first-time vendors also won Best Marketplace Display for the presentation of their popular secret-recipe dressing.

Participating in the largest indoor agricultural event in the country, held Jan. 7 to 14 in Harrisburg, they were one of 300 commercial exhibitors and 10,000 competitive exhibits, just waiting for 400,000 people to pass by their booth.

Though the Eshlemans had been told it would be crowded, "It was constant; it was unreal to me," Kim declared. "We were really unprepared."

They thought a box of two-ounce sample cups would last a long time, but ran out on opening day. Fortunately, they were able to order supplies, including empty bottles, during the week as needed, and Rod's mother, Vernice Eshleman, was back home at Mrs. Gibble's mixing up more dressing.

The team, taking turns during the eight days, handed out cups with carrots or broccoli pieces, and sprayed on the dressing. People frequently asked for the vegetable sample they weren't given, too.

"It tickled me," said Kim. "We knew you couldn't take just one bite."

The Eshlemans were pleased with the exposure, both to the public and other business entities. They plan to attend the Farm Show in 2013, and are contemplating bringing along another product. They will also sponsor a fudge-making contest. Vernice will be one of the judges. She was able to get out of the kitchen a couple days to check out the show, including Wednesday for the award breakfast.

"I'm tired," said Kim on Monday, while everything had yet to be unpacked. "But it was great."