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Planning For The Sandwich Fair

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - October 7, 2013





Map of the Sandwich Fair

Map of the Sandwich Fair

Imagine having a huge outdoor celebration. Imagine holding that event in weather that could be warm and sunny or cold, rainy … or even spitting snow! Add to that the logistics of parking cars for huge numbers of people, keeping the grounds clean for three days, busing guests in, judging everything from baked goods to vegetables to hooked rugs, quilts, artwork, and livestock, and offering a number of musical acts and other performances, and you have just a small sampling of the work that goes into making Sandwich Fair happen each year.

Sandwich Fair is traditionally the last of the New Hampshire fairs that take place from summer until autumn. This year, beloved by many, the Sandwich Fair runs Oct. 12-14 on the Sandwich Fairgrounds. Fall just isn’t fall without Sandwich Fair, according to the hundreds of people who come from around the corner, around the state, and further away to take in the event that is the epitome of a country New England fair.

Pulling off the fair each year takes planning, according to Sandwich Fair Office Manager Rhea York. “We start working on next year’s fair right after the fair ends! I work two days a week in the winter and our treasurer works one day a week in the winter.”

There are many dedicated people and committee members who also put in long hours, all year long, to ensure that the Sandwich Fair runs smoothly each year.

“We also have two areas of publicity,” Rhea adds. “Our treasurer handles the advertising for radio and a board member handles the print advertising.”

It would seem that, if you are involved in Sandwich Fair, you are expected to jump in and be a part of the planning, year-round, so the fair is a success each Columbus Day Weekend.

According to Sandwich Fair President Dan Peaslee, the fair encompasses about 15 acres on the fairgrounds and, if parking lots are included, the number swells to around 26 acres.

Those many acres are the home each Columbus Day Weekend to a dizzying array of events and exhibits and rides. From the wonderful Ferris Wheel to the kiddy rides and exciting adult rides, food concessions ranging from hot dogs to pizza, chowders, fries, baked goods, and more gourmet fare, to large exhibition buildings full of hand-made items and 4-H-type displays, anything and everything one could think of is offered at the fair.

The amusement portion of Sandwich Fair is handled by Gillette Shows from Massachusetts. “We have three kiddy rides and about a dozen adult rides,” says Rhea. “I can’t say there is any particular ride that is a favorite. The favorite ride seems to change from year to year!”

Food is obviously a huge part of Sandwich Fair. A concession secretary handles that portion of the fair; she processes all applications. “She likes to offer variety for fairgoers,” says Rhea. “We have the standard favorites each year, but we also like to offer concessions that are new and unique and offer our visitors something they haven’t tried or seen before.”

Service organizations take part in the concessions and utilize the fair as a way to raise funds. School classes, service clubs such as Lions Clubs and Rotary and others sell hot dogs, burgers, and a variety of foods.

Once fairgoers grab a cup of coffee or a refreshing soda or lemonade and lunch, they often head to the main stage area to take in a variety of performances. From country music to rock to individual performers, a lot of talent takes to the stage each year during the fair.

How does the fair committee choose which acts to offer? According to Rhea, they work on it all year long, attending musical shows and concerts at other venues to check out bands and musical acts. If they see performers they like and that the audience responds to positively, the performer is added to a list to contact.

“We have music and performers during the three days of the fair,” Rhea mentions. “Board members handle getting the stage entertainment. The acts are not all music; we also have a sword-swallower, Frisbee® dogs, a ventriloquist, and others. We have an average of two bands performing at various times during each day.”

Livestock owners arrive on Friday of the fair weekend. They get their livestock unloaded and settled in, which is a process that takes time. If they are traveling from far away, they may camp in the livestock camping area for the weekend.

“This year, we have livestock owners coming from Vermont and Maine with their animals because there is no scheduling conflict with other fairs. It’s a big part of the fair and the animals are a favorite with adults and children every year,” Rhea adds.

The huge exhibition buildings are full of arts, crafts, garden projects, and much, much more. How are the submissions judged in categories such as paintings, photography, quilting, and rug hooking or drawing?

Rhea explains, “Each department has a judge that is skilled in that category. For example, hooked rug submissions are judged by a person skilled in rug hooking, and so forth. We have separate judges for each area, from baked goods to vegetables to crafts and artwork.”

Many people attend the fair each year and that means parking for hundreds of vehicles. Luckily, the Sandwich Fair has that covered as well.

“We have a board member who is in charge of parking and a committee chair. They organize the parking lots and attendants for those lots. And the last few years, we have bused people from off-site parking areas. It seems like a lot, but these committee members know what they are doing. If you have organized it year after year, you really know what you are doing and our committee members are highly organized and experienced.”

For those who attend the fair, it is obvious that the grounds are kept clean during the event. Staff members are on hand during each day of the fair to see to trash pick-up, and the day after the fair ends, they are on site to keep things clean.

Rhea says, “Cleanup runs like a top: We have grounds men that work through the weekend and they keep on top of everything. By the day after the fair ends, on Tuesday, you would never know there had been a fair with hundreds of people. The amusements are all packed up and gone by Tuesday morning as well.”

This year’s fair theme is Celebrating 250 Years of Sandwich History to reflect Sandwich’s 250th anniversary. The Sunday parade, always a fair favorite, will have exciting floats, bands, live animals, and Rhea shares that she expects some floats to be fashioned around the 250-Year theme.

Because new things are added to the fair each year, there is always something new to see and do, along with returning favorites. This year brings miniature pigs and a kiddy scavenger hunt. Rhea is excited about the upcoming fair, as are all the Sandwich Fair committee members and staff.

It takes weeks and weeks of planning and hard work, but it is clearly a lot of fun as well. That is the reason committee members volunteer their time to bring the beloved, last-of-the-season fair to Sandwich each Columbus Day weekend.

For information about Sandwich Fair, visit www.thesandwichfair.com. 

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