Volunteers combat weather to bring fair fun

Erin Ballard

Rain or shine, the hard workers behind the Brown County Fair don’t quit.

That’s true every year that wet weather hits the annual festivities on the north side of Aberdeen, which seems much more often than not. In fact, fair board member Jo Miller doesn’t remember a time that she hasn’t seen rain in her near decade of service.

Of course, it’s all par for the course for seasoned fair vets.

“We keep moving. You either get rain one day or you get rain most days,” she said. “You just have to go with the flow.”

In the case of the fair, that means literally, as streams of water glide through well-worn trails of concert-goers and carnival-lovers alike for a week of fun, food and fare.

Despite a cloudy forecast with intermittent showers, hordes of blue-shirted volunteers worked tirelessly on Aug. 12 to get ready for the week’s festivities.

They were comprised of old and new, trouper and novice.

Jayson Tollefson is of the former, running the campground area for the first time this year. But even he wasn’t slowed by the rain, taking all of the normal calls someone in his position would answer — which RV is too close to its tight boundaries, which one needs more outlets or help with breakers.

They’re easy fixes for him now. The harder ones will be the more important ones that come in the middle of the night. Tollefson wanted to get involved in in doing something that helped others. When asked why he joined the fair board, his answer was easy.

“To give back to the county and the people,” he said.

Real weather trouble for fair volunteers came Aug. 10, on the first day of setup. That’s when awnings were being placed at the grandstand gate with the aid of some forklifts that needed to be pulled out afterward.

The result was a muddy but familiar mess.

“Last year, we got lucky. It rained the last day so that wasn’t as bad, at least for the people,” said Stacey Sprengeler, a fair board member.

On Aug. 12, people were hasting through spongey ground, setting up tables and tents, brushing water off bleachers and getting ready for a huge influx of visitors.

About 150 volunteers are required to put up and tear down the fairgrounds.

“We have former board members that are out here at least a week before the fair starts,” Miller said. “It’s many hundreds of hours of volunteering.”

Teams of volunteers were setting up until 5 p.m. on Aug. 13, when the food vendors opened for business.

After that, it’s a lot of navigation and ups and downs until Aug. 18. That day and the next are a bit more hectic, as volunteers are scarcer and the work, according to board member Conald Burgard, is perhaps more physical.

“We have a lot of help on the front end, but the back end has little support,” Burgard said. “Everyone’s excited for the fair. It’s exciting to help start the fair, but not as much after.”

It also doesn’t help that the cleanup day is Aug. 19, a work day for most volunteers, while setup happens on a Saturday, Miller said.

Jessica Heinz of Aberdeen sweeps the floor of the Home Arts Building as she and other volunteers worked Saturday to prepare the fairgrounds for the Brown County Fair.
Val Daschel, left, and Janel Elsen, center left, move a bench into the Kessler’s Tent along with Erica Henriksen, center right, and Karen Treeby, front right, as they and others worked Saturday on the Brown County Fairgrounds. American News photos by John Davis