Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Volunteers make Vinland Fair one to remember

August 13, 2003

There can be no doubt that Vinland Fair is special and one of the most unique events in Douglas County. This year's 96th annual version proved that once again.

The Vinland Fair is a celebration of food and fun, rural style, that's like a trip back in tim e. There are no tilt-a-whirls, no side-show gimmicks like the bearded lady and there isn't even a demolition derby. No, it's not like most fairs.

The people in and around Vinland make sure of that. It's a huge volunteer effort that keeps everything simpl e. There's plenty of food and family fun. Music abounds during the evening from live bands. There's a talent show, an antique tractor pull and a homemade ice cream contest with everyone on hand getting a taste for Saturday's finale.

Of course there are t he fair staples of entering home-made items in a whole host of categories. There's the livestock show, too, and there's the horseshoe pitching contest. Kids have all sorts of games and contests. Nothing fancy, just fun.

But it all comes down to the volun teers who make it happen. Of course there are the usual faces, such as Mary Jane Chubb, Charlene Potter, Ron Skaggs and Eloise Craig, just to name a few and not in any way single them out. They're just good examples.

As one of Vinland's newest "residents," it was my rookie season and I was pleased to see another first timer in the volunteer category. State Rep. Tom Holland rolled up his sleeves Friday night and was washing dishes. How's that for small-town flair?

My inaugural foray into the Vinland volu nteerism was a stint in the food booth Saturday at noon. Luckily, I was paired up with Curtis Trarbach to run the grill. We had done the same at another recent major Vinland event, so we made a good team. He grilled the burgers, I added the cheese, bun a nd the wrapping and then we'd sing out in our best Saturday Night Live imitation "cheeseburger, cheeseburger." It was a lot of fun.

Another volunteer of note was Mike Yoder, chief photographer for the Lawrence Journal-World and avid Vinland Fair attendee, helped out by picking up trash Saturday morning. As usual, he took pictures of the weekend events and had a display in the exhibition building featuring past photos. It was a topic of lots of discussions. He's also working on compiling information and photos for the 100th anniversary of the fair which is just around the corner. That should be real interesting.

One of the pictures in Yoder's display was of Katharine Kelley and her sisters, Ann Hemphill and Martha Smith. It was a great shot. Kelley was also at it in the volunteering department, taking her turn watching the exhibit barn Saturday afternoon. She started going to the Vinland Fair when she was a baby and 94 years later she's still going.

Kelley shared one of her early-fair stories with me. It was from when she was a young girl and entered a cake in the fair in the early 1900s when it was located a mile east of where the Vinland Fairgrounds are now. The judge cut into her cake and said "someone put a lot of elbow grease into this one."

That didn't set well with the young Kelley.

"It was my cake and there wasn't a bit of elbow grease in it," she laughed as she recalled saying it. "My aunt explained to me later what elbow grease was."

There's always a lot of elbow grease at the Vinland Fair. I've only been watching for a few years and only the last two real closely. But it's obvious to me that plenty of that grease comes from Mike and Julie Craig, who are the fair presidents. Of course they don't want to take credit themselves, but are alwa ys quick to give credit elsewhere.

Hats off to the Craigs and everyone that made the 96th Vinland Fair another huge success. It was a job well done.

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  • I always ask people what their favorite activity at the Vinland Fair is. No one seems to be able to pick just one. There are just too many that make for a great weekend of good, old-fashioned fun.

There's music and food aplenty. I like the horseshoe pitching, which I'm afraid I took a terrible beating at, and the tractor pull. Those four are at the top of my list.

But if you've ever watched the kids take part in the games, pet parade, turtle race, etc., you'd know those would be the choices of the younger set. Their parents would probably choose them, too.

Everyone always mentions the food and that was my favorite quote from the fair. Cindy Trarbach said it when she described the fair to friends. "Basically, Vinland becomes a restaurant once a year."

Isn't that the truth and aren't we all lucky for it.

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