Woodstock fans won't go hungry

August 11, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Doug Sergeant was a young, three-piece-suit banker 25 years ago when hundreds of thousands of America's young counterculture went looking for free love, peace and a good time at Woodstock.

But standing on a Catonsville park-and-ride lot yesterday with an assortment of young and old, the gray-haired, 52-year-old conservative-turned-hippie was on his way to this weekend's Woodstock '94, the festival marking the silver anniversary of the monumental rock concert.

He and more than 200 others were headed to upstate New York to sell food for the Ellicott City-based Boardwalk Fries, which has been subcontracted as one of a handful of vendors to feed the estimated 170,000 concertgoers.

The 13-year-old, privately-held company hired 350 people from up and down the East Coast to work the gig. It has shipped 150,000 pounds of potatoes, 175,000 hot dogs, condiments and equipment to Saugerties, N.Y., which is 100 miles north of Manhattan and the site of the Woodstock '94 concert.

Along with Mr. Sergeant, there was an assortment of people going to Woodstock -- from bored teen-agers on summer vacation to adventurous, middle-aged men and women looking for a chance to relive Woodstock or to make up for having missed the three-day event in 1969.

"Then, I was corporate America," says Mr. Sergeant, dressed in old tennis shoes, blue jeans and a feathered cowboy hat, explaining his absence at the original Woodstock. "I'm going up for a religious experience."

In exchange, he and others will get a $6-an-hour wage, a free bus ride and admission to the most hyped concert festival of this decade.

Boardwalk Fries stands to make from $500,000 to $1.4 million in gross revenue for the three-day event, company officials say.

"We want everybody to have fun and make money at the same time," said David DiFerdinando, Boardwalk Fries president and founder, who will stay in an recreational vehicle at the concert grounds while his temporary employees sleep in a communal tent.

"We have 30 people per shift working each [of six locations]," he said. "We're running 48 [cash] registers total. During the peak time, we should be able to do substantial business."

As for Mr. DiFerdinando, looking nicely tanned and trim at 40, he was a 15-year-old high-school student who was into sports when the first Woodstock took place.

"I really didn't follow it," he said. "It was just recently that I saw the clips on CNN. There were bodies everywhere. It was amazing."

Mr. DiFerdinando and his younger brother, Fran, opened their first Boardwalk Fries in 1981 in a 400 square-foot space at White Marsh Mall in Baltimore County.

They opened a second stand at Hunt Valley Mall the same year and now have 11 stores and 65 franchises in 22 states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and California. There is a Boardwalk Fries stand at the Mall in Columbia and in Laurel Centre Mall.

The expanding company recently opened a stand at the Social Security Administration complex in Baltimore County, and in two weeks, the company will open two sites at Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. DiFerdinando, a Clemson graduate who also runs a Frederick car muffler franchise business with his parents, got the idea of starting Boardwalk Fries after vacationing in Ocean City, where he saw a competitor doing big business.

"I saw the long lines and it looked kind of easy," he said.

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