The rides are up, the pens are ready for their animal guests and the phone is ringing off the hook at the Frederick Fairgrounds’ main office just days before The Great Frederick Fair is set to begin.
“It’s like putting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together,” said Sue Hull, The Great Frederick Fair’s public relations coordinator, referring to the multifaceted setup of the fair.
Some things were done weeks in advance, such as sanitizing the barns and power-washing the seats in the grandstand. But others, such as moving the animals into their pens and setting up the rides, happen only a few days before opening day, according to Hull.
For Jamie Dutter, the day or two after the ride he mans is set up, but before the fair begins, is a chance to relax and prepare for the coming week — the calm before the storm.
Dutter helps set up, operate and tear down the carnival ride Vertigo, which he described as a “giant swing.” Riders in swing-style seats are spun around a tower.
With four people, setting up the ride takes about three hours, and includes an intricate number of steps that Dutter has memorized after working with the ride for 1½ years.
“I could do it in my sleep, just about,” he said, laughing.
Dutter and others arrived Tuesday night and finished setting up and testing the ride by midafternoon Wednesday. Until the midway opens Friday at 5 p.m., Dutter said he’s free to do as he pleases, but noted he’ll most likely be relaxing and preparing for the fair’s nine-day run.
Trey Myers slowly moved fryers, sinks and other machinery into the white tent where Pighole BBQ will stand, ignoring the beating sun and sweltering heat.
“We’re getting everything cleaned up and organized,” said Myers, who co-owns the barbecue joint with Tim Simons. “We’ll start cooking the food tomorrow.”
Myers said Pighole BBQ started setting up shop last Tuesday and will likely continue until Friday.
After that, “things are totally crazy,” Myers said. “On a good day, the line never ends.”
Myers is no newcomer to The Great Frederick Fair; the Pighole BBQ co-owner said he competed in the fair’s 4-H categories showing hogs in 1985 and 1986.
“Life is ironic,” he said, noting that he went from showing hogs to cooking them at the fair.
In the Household Building, Brenda Bell and her “Bluebells,” the nicknamed group of volunteers who help log photography, quilt, afghan and fine arts entries as well as display them, were hard at work.
Some of the entries have already been judged and placed on display in the building, according to Bell, the superintendent of the Household Building.
Entries will trickle in until Friday, however, creating a steady flow of work.
“For some of them, this is going to be their careers,” Bell said, referring to the submissions entered by middle and high school students, noting the quality and time dedicated to each piece.
Once the fair begins Friday, Bell and her volunteers change gears, switching from logging entries and assisting the judges to monitoring the artwork on display and answering any questions, much like museum curators.
“We have a lot of fun,” Bell said.