by Maggie Judi
In the past week, the San Juan Record featured a full-page ad of all the fair activities. This week, we get to see a bit of its inner workings. Just what makes it go and who does the winding of the gears?
The theme for the county fair is “Get your fair face on!” It invites all who participate to fully immerse themselves in the experience of a rural fair.
Fair food, concerts, exhibitions from the talented residents of our unique county, a rodeo and talent contest all lend themselves to an essential part of small town living.
If the little county fair held within the bounds of one of America’s largest county has a face, it would most assuredly belong to Anna Adair Fredericks.
This summer marks 16 years for Anna as the Fair Director, and after nearly two decades helming the biggest party of the year, she still has her fair face on.
This article has been in the makings for a year now, as has this year’s fair. I spoke with Anna a few days after the conclusion of the 2015 fair, and plans were already underway for 2016. When I spoke to her before this year’s fair, she mentioned the wheels are already turning with ideas for 2017.
So my first question for the Fair Director, “Why do this for 16 years?”
Her answer is simple. “I love it. As much as it stresses me out and as much as it frustrates me sometimes, I love it.
“I don’t want to see it go away. I want to see it get bigger, and I want to see it get better. I just love it. I love being there; I love seeing families down there together.”
Anna chuckles through a voice thick with emotion and continues, “I’m going to get emotional. It’s just the freaking fair!”
Her voice dissolves into laughter tinged with tears. “It was a part of my life growing up. It was a big part of my life and my family, and so the fair feels like family to me.”
This family thing is the crux of why Anna has spent a good portion of her life down at the fairgrounds. Her own family plays a huge roll in the production of our fair, from her own children, to her parents, brothers, nieces and nephews.
“My family is essential to what we do there,” Anna explains. “I couldn’t do it if my children didn’t volunteer hundreds of hours. I can’t even quantify the amount of time that my three kids and husband have spent down there with me.”
The memory makes her chuckle, “Fixing things and cleaning things and my dad and my mom planting flowers all summer and taking care of them so that we have beautiful flowers when we get to the fair.”
Anna’s father, Kent Adair, is there to work on anything that needs to be fixed. Brother Todd Adair, an electrician, is always on call when things need to be adjusted.
Brother Art Adair announces events, and brothers Kreig and Rhett Adair are always on hand and ready to get the job done.
“I couldn’t do it without any of them,” says Anna. “Nobody ever, ever tells me no when I ask for their help.”
Fair workers every year are local kids from Monticello and Blanding. “It is a testament to the kind of kids we raise here. The fair in general makes me grateful for the people around me. I think that makes me better because it makes me hope better things and believe in better things.”
Of course Anna also sees many volunteers from the community coming together to make it all happen. The queens and staff help out every year. “It is stressful and it is exhausting and there’s no end to how tiring it is, but it’s fun. We have a lot of fun.”
Other people who aren’t even on the board or the volunteer list come down to help because they love the fair too.
“We all grew up at the fair,” Anna recalls. “That is what makes the fair wonderful and worth it because we pass it on from generation to generation. The fair ties the past to the present.”
Anna grew up showing animals every year. Some of her favorite memories surface when she takes pictures of the teenagers sitting on the fences laughing it up with their “fair friends”.
She recalls, “After we showed our animals, all the Monticello kids and all the Blanding kids would sit on the fences and talk.
“We became friends sitting on those fences over hog pens. And we’re still friends! I think we built life long friendships there. We didn’t have the rivalry; we were just kids showing animals.”
Anna hopes her passion for the fair extends to the fair goers, whom she describes as the most important component. “If we don’t have fairgoers, we don’t have a fair.”
Which is something that keeps her going. In many communities, the tradition of a county fair is dying out. This is something Anna works fearlessly to prevent.
“In a world where everything is so fast, and everything is so electronic, and everything is so distant, it’s something that we can have that is real and close and that’s together.
“I love that with all the chaos in our lives, it is something that’s slow and nostalgic and reminds us of good things. It’s my magical moment in Monticello.”
There are ways for dear readers to help in this important unifying effort. And all of them are fun, and most of them are free.
Anna said that a new activity this year, the photo scavenger hunt, was born out of a need to document the fun.
“I thought it would be fun to get other people’s view of the fair,” she explains. “I always see the fair through my eyes, it’ll be fun to see it through their eyes.”
You can also help by buying a ticket to the rodeo or concert, exploring the exhibits, playing volleyball in the mud and attending and supporting the youth at the livestock shows.
“It’s not just our fruits, and our vegetables, and our quilts, and our livestock,” said Anna. “What makes us great is our people and the spirit of community and giving that our people have. That’s what’s great about the fair.”
When pressed, Anna can narrow down her favorite fair moments to the point in the party where things are beginning to wind down.
“We get to the last night and have the Blue Mountain Youth Rodeo. I think that’s one of my favorite moments.
“We have so many dad’s and grandpa’s down there with the kids, telling them they can do it. They are giving them confidence.
“When they get bucked off and they are crying, those men are cheering them on and making them feel better. That sense of camaraderie and community, it’s my favorite time.”
Again her passionate tears make an appearance in her words, “I get to stand up in the booth and watch it all, and I just think it’s a wonderful moment. There are just so many good people in our county. They are so willing to give.”
As we’ve discovered in this column time and time again, a small town runs on the energy of it’s people. And Monticello has a virtual nuclear power plant in Anna Fredericks, the entire Adair clan, and the good folks of San Juan County.
So go to the fair and find Anna, or Kent or Chris or any of the volunteers. Give them a big hug, tell them thank you and find a good fence to sit on and a friend to laugh with. Go get your fair face on!