The fair wasn’t a big part of Mary Hill’s life when she was a kid and when she was raising her kids.
“Probably on Sunday, we went to the fair,” Hill said of her childhood on a farm in rural Chokio.
When she and her husband Roger had kids, “we’d go a little more.”
Hill did what she called a 180-degree turn back in 2005 when she agreed to join the Stevens County Fair Board.
Roger had been involved with the fair as an electrician but her knowledge was minimal, Hill said.
“I wasn’t involved in 4-H. I certainly didn’t know what open class meant…,” Hill said.
She joined the board and then, the board secretary died. She recalled going to the first board meeting and being handed a pen and note paper and being asked to take notes as the board secretary. “I quickly learned a lot of stuff,” Hill said.
She’s come a long way since 2005. Hill was recently named the 2018 Fair Person of the Year Award for District 7 at the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs Convention.
Hill plays a big role in planning and organizing the upcoming Aug. 6-11 air but she said she’s one of many volunteers and fair board members who make the fair happen.
“It takes a lot of work,” Hill said. But, “we work together well. We have fun together,” she said.
“We have a great group of young members and not-so young (members),” Hill said. “We mesh together really good and we really enjoy what we do.”
Hill’s responsibilities include gathering entries for fair exhibits, contracts for vendors and similar jobs.
“It took a good five years before I really started to feel comfortable,” Hill said.
She was still working full-time at public health and doing her husband’s business bookkeeping while volunteering as the board secretary those first few years.That work background helped her as a fair secretary.
The fair “is really like a little business,” Hill said.
When she started Hill noted that the fair board referred to policies or working practices but it didn’t have the specific policy written.
“I’d say Ok, where are they because I don’t really see them,” Hill said. Her background with public health taught her that policies are important.
“I helped the fair board develop new policies,” Hill said.
One in particular is the emergency management plan that she developed with county emergency management director Dona Greiner. The fair board now has a specific policy to address emergencies such as a lost child, Hill said.
Hill continues to develop a manual for the board secretary so that when she decides to retire as a volunteer, the next person can use the manual.
Hill’s work doesn’t end when the fair starts. During the fair she will often be in the pit shack near the grandstand and horse arena.
“The pit shacks is a different side of the fair,” Hill said. The pit shack is sort of a central office for cars and drivers entering the enduro race, demolition derby and lawn mower demolition derby as well as cowboys entering the rodeo.
While she’s in the pit shack she is also “all over the grounds.” She may be needed in the open class building or in the fair office, for example.
Hill said she enjoys the fair work but she does take time to enjoy some non-work activity.
“I love to eat at the fair,” she said with a laugh. “I eat at least one breakfast there.”
She likes to try the food from the different vendors and “I love carnival food too.”
Hill may take time to eat but she will mostly likely “eat on the go,” because she will need to be somewhere on the fairgrounds.