Volunteers keep the county fair running | VailDaily.com

Volunteers keep the county fair running

Scott N. Miller
Scott Miller/Vail DailyLinda Jones has been on the volunteer board that runs the fair off and on since 1969. Even when she isn't on the board, she still volunteers. This year, she's helped run the mutton bustin' event.

EAGLE Summer is Jana Donohues busy time. But for a few days in August she takes a break to see her friends and neighbors.During the first week of August, Donohue, whos family runs Mountain Valley Ventures, a landscaping and yard care company, joins scores of other volunteers who work the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. The pay is basic: food, rodeo passes, and a chance to hobnob with a good number of valley residents and tourists.Its fun, Donohue said. Its our chance to socialize with people. Its our yearly donation to Eagle County.

For Donohues daughter Whitney, the fair presents a chance for socializing of a different kind:I like to check out the cute cowboys, she said.Whatever the motivation, the annual fair needs all the help it gets.Volunteers are essential to the operation here, said Bruce Carey, president of the Eagle County Fair Board, which runs the annual event.All of us, with the exception of two people, are volunteers, Carey said. Many fair board members bring in their spouses or significant others to volunteer, and they recruit other volunteers.Those volunteers run the gamut, from longtime or lifetime residents like the Donohues to more recent arrivals.

Its fun being around the country scene, said Chris Stein, an employee at the Grand Avenue Grill in Eagle who spent a couple evenings tending bar in the VIP tent. Im a New York City boy, so Im not really used to this.Stein is new to the valley, but no one knows the fair like Linda Jones. Jones was first appointed to the county fair board in 1969 and held a position on the board off an on until 2002. These days she considers herself a board member emeritus.Still, she comes out every year to help.Im helping with the mutton bustin event this year, Jones said.Helping with the fair is almost force of habit. All Jones kids were in 4-H, and shes put a lot of her own sweat into turning the fair into the event it is today.I think what I get out of it is to see how its evolved from when I started, Jones said. We have the new grandstands, the arena, and the new pavilion. I remember when it become a (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) rodeo instead of just a local rodeo. I remember going out to find entertainers and sponsors.Its just too near and dear to my heart to give it up, she said. Helping out at the fair can be good for the bottom line, too. Different local restaurants cater dinner for several hundred people a night at the fairs VIP tent. Those dinners are served on nights when there are rodeo performances.For the past few years, Fiestas Cafe & Cantina has fed the crowd on one of those nights. The restaurant gets paid for the catering job, but cuts the fair a special rate.And, while its hard to fathom anyone whos been in the valley more than a few weeks not knowing about the Marquez sisters restaurant in Edwards, co-owner Sue Marquez said the exposure Fiestas gets at the fair is always good.This is a way to let people know about our catering, or new things at the restaurant, Marquez said. And were a silver sponsor, so its how we support the fair and rodeo.Its neat that we do this every year, Marquez added. People always seem to enjoy it when its our night here.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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