By Ron VandenBoom
Mike Spencer is like a man crouched at the starting line of a race where he waits impatiently for the starting pistol to announce the beginning of the 1999 Great Northern Fair.
His attention is focused and all his energy is directed toward one goal bringing Hill County the best and most organized fair he can.
All the big problems have been solved, but at the last minute Spencer always finds himself faced with a myriad of smaller problems that need immediate attention.
It may be as simple of a crisis as replacing a light bulb or a sign he forgot to put up, but some of the problems are a bit more complex like trying to find space, where there is no space, for a new vendor who wants to set up a display.
The hardest thing is the spaces, Spencer said. With five different people coming in and all of a sudden they say ,Well, my stuff wont fit in here, and they want to try and figure out something else.
Its Spencers job to figure out how to squeeze them in and at the same time keep them all happy.
Many of them will tell me they need a space thats 10 by 10 and then they get lines and ropes for their tents going out another 10 feet and they block someone else from setting up right next to them, Spencer said.
Or maybe its not a tent, but a trailer that causes a problem.
Trailers come in and you think its just going to be a little thing and they show up with a big motor home, he said. Those are the kind of things that get kind of scary.
Spencer has a temporary full-time staff of 12 people that will work during the fair cleaning tables or keeping the bathrooms presentable, but its Spencer who has to solve the larger problems and if there are larger problems its the few days just prior to the fair when they show up.
Spencer said his days will generally begin at 6 a.m. and will last till midnight. The carnival rides begin to show up as early as the Friday before the fair starts and this year the petting zoo arrived on Saturday.
Vendors and businesses too begin arriving the weekend before the fair starts to take advantage of the free time they have on weekends, Spencer said. Food needs to be stored in the freezers merchandise needs to be set up in the Trades and Industry Buildings.
That means power has to be on and all equipment working in the buildings and booths.
Food booths will open Wednesday and Spencer said they should be ready to go by 11 a.m. Outside vendors will also be ready to go on Wednesday and at least two of the outside vendors will be new to the fair this year.
One will sell sunglasses and the other will offer people a chance to scale an imitation rock wall for what Spencer believes is a chance to ring a bell or hear a buzzer go off.
Wednesday is Kids Day at the Great Northern Fair and kids can get all day passes for the rides at the carnival for $12. After noon on Wednesday the tickets must be purchased from the carnival and not from the Great Northern Fair Office.
Passes will still be available on Thursday from the carnival, but the price goes up to $17.