No. 3 Feature Story: A day in the fair life
Facing his first Clay County Fair, Jeremy Parsons spent a great deal of time leading up to the fair working behind the scenes to enhance the experience for visitors - new and old - giving them many possible memories to take away in 2012. Parsons' work began immediately after the conclusion of the 2011 fair. In his first year as fair manager, he worked hard to make sure the first-time fairgoers had a greater knowledge of the grounds and made customer service a priority on the grounds.
The calendar may say the 2012 Clay County Fair begins Sept. 8, but that is not the case for fair manager Jeremy Parsons.
"The fair starts today for us," Parsons said on Friday. "Entries are coming in for several departments and the grounds are open for exhibitors. It's like the fair is going on, but the fairgoers aren't here yet."
Parsons' preparations begin almost as soon as the fair ends.
He spends the first weekend of October at the International Entertainment Buyers Association annual conference in Nashville, where he begins searching for grandstand entertainers.
Once he identifies potential fair acts, he spends the winter months booking entertainment.
A final lineup of exhibitors also begins to take shape at that time.
"People can apply to be exhibitors on Jan. 1," Parsons said. "They hear from us on March 1."
This year, Parsons' staff is working with 518 different vendors.
The first shipment of ribbons arrives in February and additional ribbons are ordered in the weeks leading up to the fair. Department superintendents work with Parsons and his staff throughout the winter to plan their respective events.
March and April are spent finalizing advertisements and other promotional details.
"The planning of the fair, as far as everything you see in the brochure -- the free acts, sponsors and grandstand schedule -- has to be in place by May 1 when the brochure goes to print," Parsons said.
Because the months leading up to the fair are used for planning, Parsons' main responsibility is to make sure everything goes as planned.
"A lot of what I've done was completed months ago," he said. "Now it's things like talking with the entertainers and media and making sure everything is occurring."
Entertainers' accommodations must also be arranged and confirmed.
His office hours typically start at 7 a.m. in the final weeks of preparation, and stretch until about 9 p.m. as the fair nears and 10 or 11 p.m. during the event. Those hours aren't necessarily accounted for beforehand because Parsons knows various questions and issues will arise each day.
"It's good not to have things scheduled, because we have to be flexible," he said.
Tasks include coordinating bench placement, preparing golf carts for various departments and scheduling volunteers for recycling pickup.
"Everything just builds a little more each month," Parsons said. "It really is a year-long process that is structured."