Opening day at the Delaware State Fair is a lot of work, but fair organizers, exhibitors and volunteers said they couldn't have asked for better weather and a smoother start.
It takes a lot of work to get 175 cows settled in at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.
But Bill Vanderwende knows how to get it done.
Vanderwende has been coming to the Delaware State Fair since the 1940s, and has been around dairy cows his whole life. So it’s no surprise that he has four generations of family members competing at the fair this year.
“It’s a family tradition, really,” the Bridgeville resident said. “My father came here, all of my family comes here. It’s just in our blood.”
Vanderwende, superintendent of the dairy division at the fair, hands out passes and directs entering exhibitors as they bring in their cows. While he said the entire fair is a lot of work, the first day is definitely the toughest.
“The first day is hectic because the animals are coming in, you’re trying to get them in the right spot,” he explained. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of labor goes into it for a 10 day affair.”
Between getting the stalls ready with straw bedding and providing enough hay for feed – a full-grown cow will eat 30 to 35 pounds of hay each day – exhibitors also have to prep their cows for show time. They have to be washed and clipped before they come, and washed again every day throughout the fair, Vanderwende explained.
The first day at the State Fair means a lot of work for all of the participants and volunteers, even if they don’t have to deal with 1,200-pound animals.
It takes a lot of effort to set up the inanimate displays as well, said volunteer Kathy Cassidy. She said the Dover Building, which houses a variety of competitive displays like produce, flowers, cakes and crafts, is completely empty just a few days before the event.
“The first day is a lot of work,” the Dover resident said. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes you’ll never see.”
From the display stands to decorations, everything is handled by volunteers, she said, but it all gets done if they have a positive attitude.
“It can be nerve-racking, but if you look at it with a smile, it’ll get done,” she said.
Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing, said opening day 2014 couldn’t have gone smoother.
“It’s gone great. The weather is cooperating, vendors are in place,” he said. “And we’re ready for 300,000 of our closest friends to come enjoy the fair.”
But for the crew of the Hollywood Racing Pigs and Circus Hollywood, the Delaware State Fair means more than setting up tables and smearing on the sun screen.
Serge Coronas, Jr., who manages the Hollywood Racing Pigs, Circus Hollywood and petting zoo tents near the fair’s main entrance, said prepping the pigs is the easy part of setting up for the fair.
“It’s the equipment that’s hard,” he said. The racing pigs, based in Bradenton, Fla., practice and exercise in the off-season, but they know exactly what to do when Coronas’ voice blares through the speakers and the music starts playing.
“They definitely know when it’s show time,” he said.
Opening day, no matter where he and his crew are performing, isn’t that much different than any other performance day, he explained.
“Opening day is the first day and start of the adventure here at the fair,” he said. “But we try to treat every day like opening day.”