Originally published in the Ellensburg Daily Record
By Molly Allen
As Kittitas County Fair exhibitors dropped off their entries at a crowded check-in table earlier last week, one exhibitor told a superintendent: “You couldn’t pay me to be doing what you’re doing right now.”
As it turns out, superintendents aren’t paid. They volunteer their time to help organize the whirlwind that is the fair.
Next to the fair board, the superintendents are the heart and soul behind the fair. Some have been volunteering their time every Labor Day weekend for the past 30 years, while others are experiencing their first fair.
Superintendents oversee their department’s portion of the exhibitor guide, updated by the Kittitas County Fair each year. They are responsible for making changes to keep up with the changes in their industry. On check-in day, superintendents oversee entry judging, then set up their department’s exhibits.
A superintendent manages barn duty throughout fair hours, so each building is properly stocked, cared for and offers all fair-goers a resource within the building they’re touring.
“I love the opportunity to be of service, and it’s fun to meet so many different people,” said Jerry Brong, who has served as an assistant superintendent for photography for more than 10 years.
Previously a professional photographer, Brong said he loves to promote the fair to many people around the state. The photography department has one superintendent and three or four assistant superintendents, depending on the year. Brong’s wife, Marlene, also volunteers as an assistant superintendent.
“I love the chance to have discussions and to interact with other photographers. It’s nice to be able to share that knowledge with others,” Brong said.
On the 4-H and livestock side, the process for check-in and the responsibilities of a superintendent are similar to other departments. Bambi Miller, long-time county farmer and owner of Parke Creek Farm, has served as poultry superintendent for three years.
“It’s a carefully planned and timed-out process,” she said.
The Wednesday before fair is livestock day. Each department has its own drop-off time. When poultry comes in, they’re checked by two different vets for health. Prior to arrival, the superintendent already knows how many birds will be coming, and they have set up cages and tables to accommodate them. The superintendent follows the judge around as they rank poultry, marking down the rating in the official judging book and placing a ribbon on each cage.
“I just love watching the kids excel and succeed. Year after year you watch them learn responsibility, building so many skills,” Miller said.
The superintendents oversee the kids as they decorate the boards above their cages and take part in daily barn duty.
Once the fair closes, superintendents are responsible for coordinating entry pick up and clean up of their departments.
“It’s fun to be a part of something so special in our community,” Miller said.