BALLSTON SPA -- Jodi Mulvaney had simple goals for her son's lemonade stand on Saturday, but learning about New York state's health and safety regulatory process was not among them.
The Mulvaneys – husband and wife Sean and Jodi and their son Brendan, age 7, live directly across the street from the Saratoga County Fair, which started Tuesday and runs until Sunday. The family lets people park on their lawn for $5 each, $10 on the weekends, during the fair. They say they donate about half the money they make on the parking to charities, such as the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
"We make out on the parking," Sean said. "When it's not raining we'll get up to 36 cars, and fill it up twice in one day."
The entrepreneurial family has also tried to give their son the all-American lessons inherent in running a lemonade stand off of their back porch each of the the last four years.
"There's the social aspect of it. Speaking, using manners, being polite, counting money, it's not just making money – it's meeting people. These people will come back and see him, and the tradition of it," she said.
Jodi said the tradition was interrupted Saturday when a woman wearing a green shirt that said New York state Department of Health on it walked into the family's backyard and asked if Brendan had a permit to sell the lemonade.
"She came up on the deck, and looked around and said you need a permit to do this. She was more afraid that people were going to get sick. I don't know, e coli or something," Jodi said. "We decided to stop selling after that. If people want it, they can make a donation. It's all over Facebook, and everybody who drives by has been shouting "go for the lemonade stand!"
Brendan said he was hoping to save money for a planned family trip to Disney World in Florida.
"I had a lot of customers! Last week I got 60 customers," he said.
Sean said in the past his son has collected as much as $67 in a week, selling lemonade for 75 cents per cup and canned sodas for a dollar. He said he never got the name of the state Department of Health inspector who came to his house, but he believes his family may receive a fine.
"She took down all of our information. Tried to take a picture of my son and the sign. I tried to put my hand in the way and I told her I didn't give her permission to take pictures of my son, or anything on my property. So, I asked her to get off of my property as politely as I could," he said.
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Deb Czech, a spokeswoman for the Saratoga County Fair, said New York state health inspectors are on site at the fairgrounds.
"We have lots of food and beverage operations as well as the animals. I guess they are in proximity to [homeowners like the Mulvaneys], but I don't know really know what their activities are with respect to private residences and the businesses they operate," Czech said.
"There are health considerations when people go to the fair, just to prevent the spread of any bacteria associated with the animals to the humans, so I know that we do have inspectors during the week, but I really don't know what activities they participate in once they leave the fairgrounds."
Sean said he's not sure if he will apply for a permit the next time the family decides to sell lemonade near the fair, or if he'll be required to pay a $150 fine.
Brendan, however, has learned a lesson he won't forget. "That woman was a meanie!" he exclaimed. "I didn't have a permit, so she shut me down!"