Kettle mettle

Paul Lyon

Photo By vic cantu

If you’ve visited the Thursday Night Market, you’ve probably been tempted by the sweet smell of Ma & Pa’s Kettle Corn booth in the middle of Fourth Street, across from City Plaza. Long lines of fans often form to get their fix of addictive salty sweet delights. Paul Lyon owns and runs the booth with his wife, Pam, and is sometimes helped out by his nephew, Aric Evans (pictured at left, next to Paul). To hire Ma & Pa for your event, contact Paul at 589-4074 or

How is business going?

It’s outrageously good! We started [at] the Thursday Night Market three years ago, and this year we’re selling almost twice as much as last year. Spring and fall are best, and sometimes it’s almost too much business. But it slows down in the summer heat.

What flavors do you sell?

Our two biggest sellers are the regular, which has sugar and salt, and caramel. We also offer cheese, cinnamon and habanero, but they don’t sell anywhere near as much as the top two. We use the top-of-the-line Magic Mushroom Popcorn, which pops round and plump. Most people use “butterfly” popcorn, which pops with wings that stick out. That makes it harder to coat, and it falls apart easier in the kettle.

Is the Thursday Night Market your only venue?

No, but it’s our bread and butter. We also go to places like the races at the Silver Dollar Speedway, the Paradise Chocolate Fest, Gold Nugget Days and the Yuba-Sutter Fair. Plus we do birthdays, Christmas parties and such.

Is it difficult to make?

It can get pretty tough and hot. We use a paddle to stir the corn in a big, hot kettle. If you don’t stir fast enough the corn burns. I use a clear safety mask, gloves and long sleeves, since the corn pops at 360 degrees with oil that can splatter everywhere. My wife doesn’t stir because of that. You can imagine how hot it gets in the summer! I would die without my little box fan, which also helps spread the smell to the crowd.

What got you started?

Three years ago a friend who does it in Roseville knew I was good mechanically so he asked me to modify some of his equipment. I also made some for myself to try, and started [at] the Thursday Night Markets. I’m also a part-time contractor, but I’d rather put a smile on people’s faces at an exciting event than work on a building.

What’s next?

I’m building a trailer that will look like Ma & Pa Kettle’s house. It will be so much easier than the tent we have to set up and tear down now. We’ll just roll up, open the doors and start selling.