With the 2023 Lebanon Area Fair just days away, Michelle Kaufman and Jodi Dresch shared their experiences of serving on its committees with LebTown.
There are 28 committees spanning one to 16 members that work with hundreds of volunteers throughout the calendar year in tandem with the board.
The committees have specific duties – awards, barbecue, brochure and catalog, commercial exhibits and food vendors, community day, dairy, dairy beef, entertainment, fair queen, farm crops, flowers, goats, horses, indoor exhibits, kids day, 5K run, livestock, office, poultry, publicity, rabbits, refreshments, scholarship, security, sponsorship, strategic planning, track, and waste management – that ultimately make the county’s award-winning fair, which attracts over 50,000 fairgoers, possible.
Kaufman is a lifelong Lebanon resident who got active with the fair as a youth through the 4-H program. She got involved with the commercial exhibits and food vendors committee about 20 years ago. Kaufman currently serves as the fair’s financial secretary and the committee’s chair.
Kaufman recounted how she became a member and eventual chair of the committee. “Since I was on the fair board, and it was kind of, nobody else really wanted to do it anymore, and I was put on the committee, and then I became chairman of the committee over the years,” she said.
Kaufman said that as the commercial exhibits and food vendors committee operates, it interacts with the fair board rather than other fair committees.
When asked if she would like to shout out anyone involved with the committee, Kaufman responded, “I would say Mark Krall. He’s the one that helps when the vendors come in, like the food vendors when they have their trailers. He actually helps park them. And he helps with the layout. And yeah, he’s my righthand person. If I’m not there, he’s there to show people where they go and things like that.”
Each January, Kaufman, on behalf of the commercial exhibits and food vendors committee, reaches out via email to vendors who have previously attended the fair, asking if they would be interested in attending that year’s fair.
“Once I get their information back, if they are coming back or not, then I look for new vendors,” Kaufman said. “Usually, people email me or contact me to see if they could get into the fair.”
By the middle of June or earlier, Kaufman has the vendors for that year’s fair locked in. After that, the committee members meet to plan out the layout of the vendors at the fair.
“I learned that we need to ask for specific guidelines of how big their trailers are, electric usage, different intricate things that people don’t really think that they really need to know until they actually do it,” she said.
“Because when you work on the layout, if they don’t give you the specific sizes of their trailers, you can’t fit them in. You know, they always tell you they’re 20 feet, but they’re actually 23 feet, and then you’re three feet short. So, we learned that we have to ask specific questions to do everything.”
Kaufman said the committee allots 12 square feet for 10-feet-by-10-feet spaces because they usually feature a tent, stakes, and other elements that require more than 10 square feet, for another instance.
“And then, a week before the fair … my committee gets together, and we mark all the spots with paint on the grounds outside,” Kaufman said.
For the 2023 Lebanon Area Fair, Kaufman said there will be around 19 food vendors, five commercial vendors, which are the tractor equipment sort of vendors, and 15 other groups, including three churches and other nonprofit organizations, in attendance.
“There’s a gentleman that’s coming in. It’s his second year. It’s called Iron Nature. He does ironwork, different projects,” Kaufman said. “And he’s actually doing demonstrations for the fair this year.”
There are no stipulations on which vendors can attend the fair, according to Kaufman.
“Food vendor-wise, we try to not duplicate. But the last couple of years, we did, only because we had the space for them. This year, we have a bigger variety of food vendors,” Kaufman said. “And in reality, with anything else, it’s mainly first come, first serve. Once we get their applications in, the first ones that we would accept. So, there’s no stipulation. I mean, we pretty much accept anybody that wants to come in.”
For Dresch, the Lebanon Area Fair was also a part of her youth. Her parents volunteered, and she started to show animals with 4-H at the age of eight and went on to work at the fair office. Dresch currently serves as a fair board member and the refreshments committee’s chair.
“After that, I started helping Catherine Schott. She ran the kitchen,” Dresch said. “And then, when we built the outside eatery, I pretty much worked on organizing the ice cream side of things with the grilled bologna sandwiches and the ice cream. And then, when Catherine retired [in 2012], we started the committee for the inside eatery and the outside eatery.”
Like Kaufman, Dresch said the refreshments committee operates on its own.
“I have three ladies that are pretty much my go-to. I have Lois Roop, Brenda Balmer, and Lisa Ayers. And those are the ladies that are on the committee,” Dresch said. “But there are many, many other people who help us out. Like I said, we have the 4-H and FFA volunteers. But we also round up our families and friends to help as well.”
“We take care of organizing the food for the inside and the outside eatery,” Dresch said. “And we coordinate the volunteers to work different shifts.”
Sometime around the end of May or the beginning of June, the refreshments committee meets to discuss what they should order for that year’s fair.
“And then, come June, when the fair office is open, we send out our sign-ups for 4-H and FFA volunteers to work the shifts,” Dresch said. “And then, usually, the week before is when things get started. We go in and organize and get things up and running.”
According to Dresch, the inside eatery will feature soups, salads, burgers, and other food items. Fairgoers can also visit the outside eatery to enjoy grilled bologna sandwiches, pork roll, fresh-cut French fries, ice cream, and Swiss and Coke products.
Dresch said it is sometimes a challenge for the committee to get volunteers to sign up for all the shifts needed. Those interested in volunteering at the fair in future years can contact the fair office at 717-273-3795.
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