B y Derek Liebig
Preparations are underway for the county’s largest event of the year.
A small army of volunteers and several paid staffers have been working earnestly in preparation for the Washington County Fair, which kicks off on Monday, Aug. 19.
“We’re trying frantically to get ready,” said Mark St. Jacques, fair general manager.
The annual event, which drew a record 120,000 people last year (nearly twice the population of the Washington County), is a bit of a logistical nightmare.
Next weekend, in a span of two or three days, more than a thousand animals will move into the fairgrounds’ many barns and pens, temporary tents and stages will be erected, a caravan of RV’s and pop-up trailers will arrive as exhibitors look to set up temporary living quarters, nearly 40 rides and a bevy of carnival games will take their place in the midway, and thousands of exhibitions—from quilts and model tractors to vegetables and fruit preserves—will begin to trickle in.
“A lot happens in a very short period of time,” said Harry Booth, a Easton resident and president of the Washington County Fair Board of Directors. “One day the fair grounds are barren and a few days later the place is abuzz with hundreds of people. It’s magic!”
Although much of the work will occur in the span of the next ten days, preparations for this year’s fair began years ago.
“The entertainment committee looks at the next three years of entertainment,” St. Jacques said. “We’ve already begun planning next year’s fair. It’s a continual process throughout the year.”
The fair operates with more than 20 different committees, each of which oversees and implements a different aspect of the event.
Some of those committees, such as safety and buildings and grounds, are constantly evaluating conditions and implementing improvements all year.
And as the fair week draws near, hundreds of volunteers lend a hand to pull the event off.
A half-dozen or so spent most of July entering data and registering the livestock that will be at the fair. Others will spend the next week erecting sheep pens, cleaning buildings and setting up the many exhibits.
“It’s an amazing operation,” Booth said. “It requires lots of people and coordination. Every aspect, from the fairgrounds to the entertainment to keeping people safe, is part of a great process. Everyone just kind of knows how it works.
“We could not exist if was not for the hundreds of volunteers.”
If the volunteers are the heart and the soul of the fair, then St. Jacques and his fellow staffers are the glue that holds everything together.
Last week staffers spent several days preparing for the Washington County Antique Fair and Flea Market. Beginning Monday, they spent several days taking stuff down and began working in earnest on the fair.
“Our fair personnel do a lot. They really go all out,” Booth said. “I can’t give them enough credit.”
This year’s fair will be held Monday, Aug. 19 through Sunday, Aug. 25, and will feature livestock displays and shows, a bevy of entertainment, nearly 40 amusement rides, two rodeos, a demolition derby, tractors pulls and much more. Admission will cost $10 (kids under 14 are free) and parking is free.