LIMA — Thousands of people and nine days of activity can create quite a mess. And with just a few days before another massive event, the turnaround has to be quick.
The 2017 Allen County Fair ended Saturday, but a handful of maintenance workers, volunteers, vendors and others remained at the fairgrounds on Sunday. From picking up trash and cleaning restrooms to putting signs away and washing out animal barns, getting the facility ready for the next event is a challenge that takes collaboration from a variety of groups and individuals.
“This morning at 6 o’clock people were already up and moving around,” said Allen County Fairgrounds General Manager Bob Fricke. “Our staff is still on the grounds because right now we have to get ready for Max’s Trader Days and Water Dog Races. With the fair being our largest event, and now we’re getting ready to go into another major event with Max’s, it’s a real quick turnaround for us.”
Perhaps the hardest workers on Sunday were the fairgrounds’ maintenance employees, who started the clean-up process early in the morning. Facilities manager Steve Shaffer and his crew of seven workers has spent the last 10 days on the grounds, though their most daunting task still lies ahead.
“The hardest part is trying to figure out where to start,” Shaffer said. “It can be stressful, especially since we have a very quick turnaround, but we’re doing pretty good today.”
Shaffer said he appreciated everyone who stuck around to help with the clean-up process, especially those who were no longer part of the fair staff.
“It makes you feel good that they’re willing to help and spend their days here,” he said. “That’s a big thrill, to know that there are people that still care about the county fair.”
Shortly before 2 p.m., Shaffer and former fair director Jimmy Morrison were cleaning up the area that was used as a petting zoo throughout the duration of the fair. Morrison used a John Deere bulldozer to remove excess hay, dirt and straw that was used as bedding for the animals.
“This area is where Max and his dogs are going to go, so obviously we don’t want to leave a terrible mess for him,” Shaffer said.
Along with fairgrounds staff, the organizer of the facility’s next event was on hand to help clean and set up. Max McClure and his staff of about 40 people were busy rewiring the electrical work, cleaning and reorganizing the grounds to fit their needs. Like the fair employees, Max’s group had to work fast. The trade show and water dog race begins Friday, but vendors will start setting up Wednesday.
“It is such a turmoil trying to get everything done, but we will be ready Wednesday morning for our people coming in,” McClure said. “It’s a hassle, but everybody’s working together and that’s the biggest thing. This group from the fair is wonderful to work with.”
After McClure’s event, the Rebel Run Car Show will invade the fairgrounds, followed by a horse show.
“We’re busy year-round out here,” Fricke said. “We’ve got something almost every weekend.”
But even with a full slate of events in the coming months, Fricke said he and his staff are already starting to plan for next year’s fair.
“We already started making some notes of things we can tweak,” he said. “Some were things we observed, some were things people suggested to us. But we’ll have a follow-up meeting to the fair in the next couple weeks, so we’ll talk about everything — good or bad — and see what we can change to hopefully make it better for everybody.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.