State Fair volunteers hard to miss and eager to help

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 10:27 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - On any given year, the Nebraska State Fair will see anywhere between 800 and 900 volunteers offer their services. In 2020 that number diminished to just over 100, yet there’s hardly a place to go at Fonner Park where a yellow shirt wouldn’t be in sight.

Volunteers are brought to the State Fair through a partnership with the Grand Island Chamber, a process that begins as early as April. Without the help of the volunteers, the State Fair wouldn’t operate as smoothly as it does.

“The volunteers are absolutely the backbone of this fair,” Courtney Lierman, the Volunteer Coordinator, said.

Volunteers are most often the first face visitors see when they enter Fonner Park. And, if it’s not the face visitors see then it’s the bright, yellow shirts with “volunteer” plastered across the front and back. Volunteers set up in kiosks, in each building and in front of most exhibits, on top of simply roaming the grounds eager to assist.

“They needed somebody in the gift shop so I went over there and covered there,” Annie Kahle, a volunteer, said. “I was in here [Pinnacle Bank Expo Center] so you get to go anywhere you really want.”

Volunteers are offered a myriad of positions from outdoor to indoor, standing to seated; there isn’t any position off limits. One day they could be sitting down in an air conditioned building and the next day be standing outside. Regardless, a smile and and an offer of assistance will be present.

Linda Dahlstrom and her husband live near Fonner Park and Linda has been volunteering since the first day the fair came to Grand Island (her husband joined shortly after).

“We said we have to be involved since day one and we certainly have been,” Dahlstrom said.

Linda was a “yellow shirt” for seven years and has since moved into the role of Volunteer Supervisor which means more oversight and fewer hands-on interaction, yet her passion hasn’t wavered. Nor has Annie Kahle’s, who says the people are the reason she keeps volunteering.

“I take vacation time just to come out here to spend time with them, it’s a fun thing to do,” Kahle said.

Labeled as “one big family”, the volunteers are an integral part to the State Fair’s success and, even on a year when the fair doesn’t look how it normally does, they’re at Fonner Park hard to miss and ready to help out.

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