Volunteers make the Rockingham County Fair go ‘round

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 7:57 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - While the Rockingham County Fair only lasts one week, it takes all year long to get ready for the summer favorite. It takes many people working behind the scenes to make it all happen.

“It’s how they all work together to help each other make this fair go,” fair volunteer Art Mitchell said. “That’s what makes the fair work is the volunteers.”

Art Mitchell has been volunteering at the fair since 1966. He lost his legs in a farming accident 43 years ago and now he drives a courtesy shuttle to help those who have a hard time walking around the fairgrounds.

“I understand what it is when you can’t walk. Having artificial legs, these stumps get sore and you can’t put weight on them,” Mitchell said. “I just want to help people have a better life.”

He is just one of the hundreds of hard-working volunteers who make the fair possible.

“January 1, we’re starting a new fair and that’s how long it takes, from January to August,” Barbara Roadcap, with the Rockingham County Fair Committee, said. “Line up volunteers, get people involved, spread the word, all behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done.”

Roadcap has been volunteering at the fair for 20 years and runs the homemaking section. She said she signed up over 250 volunteers for the homemaking and demonstrations. Volunteers are critical in every part of the fair.

“I kind of oversee all the functions in the barn, just making sure that everybody has the supplies that they need and making sure the shows run like they’re supposed to,” Kymberly Coffman, the Fair Livestock Committee Chair, said.

Coffman has been a part of the fair since she was nine years old when she began showing livestock. Once she got older, she began to help with things behind the scenes and eventually became a fair board member.

“It’s amazing to see the youth involved in these programs and where these projects take them further on in life, so it’s that enthusiasm working with the youth that really brings all of us back as volunteers,” she said.

It takes many different people doing different jobs to make the fair work and some volunteers have to get down and dirty to keep things running.

“I prepare for all the acts in the grandstand, as well as take care of any of the aftermaths of rainstorms and things like that in the parking areas, in the ride areas, and things like that,” AJ Simmons, who volunteers for the Fair Dirt Crew, said. “Putting stone down, filling mud holes, anything just to make the fair happen.”

Simmons has volunteered with the fair for 15 years. He and the rest of his crew often work long hours during fair week to make sure things are ready for the fair’s musical performances.

“A lot of the acts come in at 7,8, 9 o’clock in the morning and we’ll start unloading the equipment for some of the concerts. Then when the act is over at 10 o’clock at night we start tearing everything apart, so some nights we finish at midnight and are back at it around 7 o’clock the next morning,” said Simmons.

For the volunteers, seeing the joy the fair brings makes it all worth it.

‘Yesterday, children came through, a family who had four children and they squealed with delight when they saw a blue ribbon on their work,” Roadcap said. “That’s what brings me back every year, it’s the people.”

The Rockingham County Fair ends Saturday. For more information, click here.

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