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Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2016

Three decades backstage

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bill Bangs has been working for the Grandstand for the past 30 years, taking care of entertainers that pass through the Clay County Fair. After three decades of service, he has decided to retire after this year's fair.
When Bill Bangs started working for the Grandstand, the Clay County Fair ran two shows a year and admission was $5.

That was thirty years ago, right after moving to Spencer. Bangs was working as an insurance adjuster, and a friend of his needed help in the Grandstand. Since then, he's been part of the Grandstand crew, shuttling entertainers back and forth from the airport and area businesses and making sure that everyone involved gets everything they need to put on a good show.

"Back then, [the entertainers] didn't have near the amount of stuff they do now," Bangs said when thinking of the trucks that roll in before a show, laden with sound and light equipment. "It's completely different, but you do get a better sound and the lighting is so much better."

Bangs has seen every stage entertainer that has come through for almost the last third of the Clay County Fair's history. One of his favorites, he notes fondly, was Johnny Cash, who performed with June Carter Cash in 1984.

"He was such a common guy, a very nice person," Bangs said. "He said to me once, 'fish and chicken taste the same wherever you go, but you've got to eat beef in the Midwest.'"

He continued. "Whenever he came, he always ordered a steak dinner for his crew."

Another favorite act of his was Garth Brooks, who came with Trisha Yearwood in 1991.

"Back then the entertainers did two shows a day. Garth Brooks sold out both of his shows."

That year, John and Martina McBride manned the merchandise table for Brooks and Yearwood. They began selling at 4 p.m. and sold about $150,000 worth of merchandise by that evening.

"He's such a nice guy," Bangs said. "He really appreciates his fans."

Bangs has enjoyed his thirty years at the Grandstand, and considered retirement only after a series of surgeries that limited his abilities.

All throughout his thirty years, he's worked with many of the same crew members from year to year.

"Once you're on the crew, you don't leave," he joked.

He continued. "We come from every facet of life, but when we get here we all have the same job -- take care of the entertainer. We may not see each other throughout the year, but come fair time, we're all here. We enjoy ourselves and we enjoy the people we work with."

Bangs is proud of the work that he and his crew does, and he said that most of the entertainers that come through are grounded and decent people.

"If you keep the contract, you don't have any problems," he said. "By the time you've been doing it as long as I have, you know what to do and how to do it. People know how they're treated here, and they come back because of it."

At next year's fair time, Bangs won't be driving entertainers to and from the stage in his golf cart, though he knows exactly what he'll be doing instead.

"Next year I'll probably come to the fair."

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Congrats Bill! I have grown up around Bill, as long as I can remember, he has always been around. Whether it was hanging out with my dad and his friends at the coffee shop in spencer, or seeing him around his shop - maybe even at the eagles club or grand tap! Bill is an awesome guy, glad to see him recognized for his hard work

-- Posted by Bansky on Sat, Sep 15, 2012, at 7:18 PM

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