All week long more than 100 volunteers help transport people from parking lots to the Linn County Fair entrance, pick up trash, clean restrooms every 30 minutes, move chairs and set up displays.

And like an army that marches on its stomach, this crowd likes to be fed at the end of a long shift.

That’s just one of the many things Expo Center marketing manager Ronda Sherman takes care of during the fair’s four-day run.

“We have great volunteers,” she said. “For example, the folks at Nutrien Ag Solutions in Tangent provide us with shuttle drivers for all shifts. It takes 33 people. We have four shuttles going all the time.”

And, Sherman added, local restaurants step up to provide food for not only those volunteers, but also for the fair’s VIP guests.

“We provide breakfast for a few volunteers who are here really early and then from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., we have supper for all volunteers,” she said. “Elmer’s Restaurant provides us with a Mexican-themed feast one night and Pizza Hut takes care of the three other nights.”

That adds up to about 30 pizzas per night, Sherman said.

At the VIP tent, Carino’s Italian Restaurant provides meals three nights and Red Robin serves one. They feed up to 500 people per night, Sherman said.

“All of the restaurants donate everything,” Sherman said. “It’s an amazing community sponsorship and is greatly appreciated. It takes a big load off of us.”

Serving at the VIP tent starts at 6 p.m. daily.

A major sponsorship comes from Boshart Trucking, which pays for admission for all kids 12 years and under every day of the fair. 

Sherman has worked at the Expo Center for five years and said such sponsorships are vital to keep the fair going.

“We have about 92 sponsors,” she said. “We take in about $130,000 in cash sponsorships and another $100,000 of in-kind sponsorships.”

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Sherman's workdays begin at 6:30 a.m. and run until midnight during fair week. She's also responsible for the information booth, as well as the static display area, vendors and working with livestock superintendents.

“It’s busy,” she said with a laugh.

Coastal Farm, a major sponsor, provides reduced price fair and carnival tickets and also hosts a BBQ for all 4-H and FFA kids every year.

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Expo Center manager Randy Porter said sponsorships are at a record high thanks to Sherman’s efforts.

“We are grateful to all of our sponsors and our volunteers,” he said. “Without them, it would be almost impossible to put on the fair. I know all of our volunteers really appreciate the restaurants.”

Porter said sponsorships account for nearly half of the fair’s $500,000 budget.

Porter said the Linn County Road Department staff has always done a good job helping with the fair, but staff has really stepped up this year.

“They’ve really helped us out with the new traffic pattern and parking,” he said. “They’ve done all kinds of striping and signage and they have even trimmed trees along the new routes. They have gone above and beyond this year.”

Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker said he appreciates the fair sponsors, especially those who have long-term programs for all of the 4-H and FFA kids.

“They provide feed at a reduce costs for the kids and support programs that help these young people become good adults and good employees down the road,” he said. “These sponsors know that these young people learn so much taking care of animals, being responsible for the animals, (and it) will help them become good employees.”

Tucker said companies such as Linn Benton Tractor and RAM trucks bring equipment to the fair not only to create sales, but also as a strong show of support for Linn County’s important agricultural base.

“We have a great county fair because of companies like them,” he said.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.