TRADITION Volunteers are fair's lifeblood

Volunteering is a way of life for some longtime fair-goers.
CANFIELD -- Spending time at the Canfield Fair has been a part of Ruthann Henry's life since she was just a baby.
"I've never completely missed a fair since I was 3 months old," said the Canfield resident. "I practically lived there."
Her father worked with the junior fair and was later a member of the board of directors. When Ruthann grew up and was able to set aside some free time, she volunteered as well.
Thirty years later, Ruthann still volunteers every Labor Day weekend, working long hours with the junior fair and the livestock contest. During the Labor Day weekend, she sometimes works from 8 a.m. to midnight. But she loves working with the kids.
She enjoys watching the young people's commitment to the fair "and I love seeing so many of the people I know and have worked with."
Family affair: Like Ruthann, Susan Phillips has grown up at the fair. She and her husband, Bill, also live in Canfield and volunteer every year.
"They call me a professional volunteer," Susan said.
She comes from a long line of so-called "professional volunteers." Her grandfather and father served on the board of directors, and now her brother, George Less, is on the board.
"That's a long history," she said. "For as long as I can remember I've been involved with the fair. I was even on the 4-H royal court several years ago, when I was in high school."
Susan also used to exhibit the fruit grown on her family's farm, still owned by her brother. She does several things as a volunteer, including helping hire the fruit judge, and she spends a lot of time working in the arts and crafts building. But Susan said her favorite part of the fair is watching it all come together.
"I love pre-fair much more than the fair," she said. "It's like watching a jigsaw puzzle being put together piece by piece. And then when they cut the ribbon, it's just beautiful."
Keeping in touch: Bill has been volunteering since 1989, delivering promotional material around the area and sometimes participating in some judging. Over the years, he has enjoyed seeing young men and women grow up and become active members of the community, and he always loves seeing all the friendly faces of people he has met along the way.
"It's really nice when you walk into a restaurant and people ask where you've been," he said. "Being retired, I don't get to see a lot of the people that I worked with, and that's a good opportunity."
The work of these volunteers has not gone unnoticed. Bev Fisher, the fair manager, said their work helps save time and money.
"If we had to hire a part-time worker, it's hard to explain to them what needs to be done in a timely manner," she said. "[These volunteers] understand everything, and they get it done."

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