This week marks the 162nd Hillsdale County Fair.
The fair features a variety of events: concerts by musicians Rodney Atkins and Eddie Money, horse pulls, bull riding, 4-H events, and a combine demolition derby. An event of this magnitude takes quite a bit of preparation to be successful and enjoyable for those who work and those who attend.
Preparing for a concert like Rodney Atkins’ alone might have a checklist with 40-50 items, said Scott Dow, the secretary-manager for the fair.
The checklist doesn’t even start, however, until after the fair board chooses its featured performers, an effort that starts years in advance. This year’s fair performances will be running on an unconvential schedule due to tour routes.
Traditionally, Atkins performs on Saturday night, but, due to scheduling, the country singer was only available to perform on Wednesday night.
Planning the concert isn’t the only thing that takes a lot work. Even figuring out where to park all the RVs starts weeks in advance, said Tom Richards, the president of the fair board.
All of this planning requires plenty of manpower — it takes the whole village to come together, Dow said.
For those involved, it usually isn’t about a paycheck.
“The best part of the fair is that 90 percent of the effort is all volunteer,” Superintendent of Agriculture Bernie Pickell said. He said that the rides and food vendors get paid, but volunteers shoulder a large amount of behind-the-scenes heavy lifting.
“Each and every individual is so important,” said Alex Schweda, the superintendent of the 4-H building, adding that she wouldn’t be able to do her job without her 20-plus volunteers.
Volunteer opportunities abound: every building needs to be cleaned, repaired, and set up so that it is ready for people to bring in their items to show.
“People are bringing stuff they have worked on all year, and they don’t want to bring it into a dirty area,” Needlework Director Lynn Schrom said. “It is essential that we have it cleaned up for them.”
Faye McOscar, who will show some of her produce, said she spent at least four hours a day, six or seven days a week, gardening in preparation for this year’s fair.
Even creating exhibits about local businesses takes quite a bit of work. Linda Harbaugh, who was assembling the Mosherville Grange display, said that they assemble their display at home a week before they bring it in.
Dow said that he loves watching all the hard work come together.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the looks on people’s faces when they see something special,” McOscar said.