“People don’t realize how much work is involved in putting the fair together,” said fair association vice president Ann Brown. “It’s a year-round effort. There’s so much planning and organizing, and so many things to do.”
Brown is one of the core group that is working hard to keep the fair alive. But, due to the retirement of some key organizers, and the lack of volunteers to fill some key short-term positions, Brown warns the fair’s future is in jeopardy.
Fair association president Steven Adams echoed Brown’s words, saying the fair is in “dire straits” due to the lack of volunteers.
“We’ve had many meetings where we haven’t had a quorum,” said Brown. “That’s only seven people.” The fair association meets monthly, and much of the long-term planning takes place in the winter months. Contracts need to be signed, agreements with vendors need to be hammered out, and planning for new or expanded activities needs to get done.
“People don’t need to attend all the meetings,” Brown said, “but we need to know they have an interest in helping.”
While the fair has a long tradition, Brown recently turned to some new media to help get the word out about the fair needing help. She posted pleas on Facebook asking for volunteers to help at a Tuesday evening work bee this week.
“It was a spectacular turnout,” said Brown. “We had about 20 people show up. I wasn’t expecting so many.” Because of that help, fair organizers were able to do a lot of work in a short amount of time to help get ready for next week’s fair.
“It was morally uplifting,” said Brown of the turnout for Tuesday’s work bee. She added that fair organizers were very discouraged at the lack of help as recently as two weeks ago.
But there’s still quite a bit left to do, and many volunteers are still needed to help the fair operate smoothly during its four-day run. Although the fairgrounds are in Wilmington, the event attracts people from throughout southern Vermont and beyond. Anyone from anywhere will be welcome to come and help make the fair run smoothly. (See below.)
Even with a short-term bump in volunteer help, the long-term future of the fair remains in doubt.
“We need some commitments,” said Brown. “To continue long term, we need some people to step up.”
This past year saw the retirement from the fair association of three veteran members: Liz Wheeler and two of Brown’s family members, father Stanley Cross and sister-in-law Diana Brown.
“They were such key players,” said Ann Brown. “Whenever anyone had a question, they usually had the answer.”
Brown, Adams, and a small core of association officers have shouldered much of the work over the past year, getting ready for next week. For Brown, it’s partly due to family tradition.
“My family has been here since the beginning,” she said. “I remember Gramps telling stories about the fair when I was little. It’s got a lot of sentimental value. I don’t want to see it end.”