Marshfield Fair kicks off on Friday

Sydney Schwartz

Leonard LaForest travels the fairgrounds, answering questions, checking on construction and electrical projects and saying hello to old friends. LaForest is the president of the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society, which organizes the Marshfield Fair.

In the weeks before the fair, he and other directors spend their days at the 67-acre site, making sure everything is in place before the public arrives.

“It’s kind of like something that grows on itself,” LaForest said last week. “It just gets faster and faster, and all of a sudden it’s here.”

“We’re just doing all the background work,” said Carleton Chandler, the secretary/treasurer of the society. “Up until next Friday, it will be a zoo.”

The 141st annual Marshfield Fair kicks off on Friday, but fair directors have been working for months, booking acts, selling tickets and doing groundwork.

More than 170,000 people are expected to attend the fair, drawn by attractions that include farm exhibits, carnival rides, music, arts and crafts, and vehicle shows.

Organizers say planning started a year ago, at last year’s fair. They took notes of what worked and what didn’t and booked some acts. In subsequent months, they began to coordinate acts and vendors and started to create the fair booklet.

In the spring, they turn to the grounds. This year’s projects included putting a new roof on the grandstand. The work doesn’t stop until the fair begins.

“We’ve been trying more and more to do some work throughout the year so that we’re all within our own departments working on projects for the following year,” said director Janet Scribner, who heads the public relations and marketing department.

“It never ends. It really doesn’t, at least for me,” she added. “I get a break about a week after the fair and then I start right up again in November, December.”

One director works with arts and crafts, another with poultry and a third with rabbits. There are people in charge of hospitality, ticket sales, various exhibits, security and ground maintenance.

The directors are reelected each October. Typically, they remain in their positions for years. At the fair, about 150 volunteers descend on the site to help them.

“We think we have a pretty well-run operation here,” said Chandler, who spearheads general operations at the fair. “Nobody is immune to the fact that it has to get done ... nobody’s scared to get their hands dirty.”

The directors hire students to do construction work, gardening, cleaning and set-up chores. Cleaning and grounds crews come on weekends before the fair.

An electrician begins visiting a few weeks before. Last week, they were digging a trench to move an electrical cord underground.

Fiesta Shows, the carnival company, started laying out the rides and stands Thursday, for arrival this week. The vendors started to inspect and set up their trailers.

“We spend two weeks plus, just to clean them,” said Ray Hasham, who owns about 10 food trailers at the fair. “It really takes six weeks to do this fair.”

Art entries were dropped off last weekend and judging began Monday. Agricultural and horticultural entries are arriving Thursday and will be judged on Friday.

Before the fair starts, organizers check everything from fire extinguishers to paper-towel dispensers. Fire, building and health inspectors OK everything beforehand and as the festivities begin.

And there remains work to be done. Last week, director Richard Ingham was moving the sign shop from one place to another.

“It probably takes us three months a year to get the fair up and running,” Ingham said. “It’s a lot of work.”

Sydney Schwartz may be reached atsschwartz@ledger.com.