HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The Waller County Fair and Rodeo lasts just nine days, but there’s a brilliant punch that is plugged into that time frame.
For each day of the exposition, there is a core group of dedicated volunteers that put in many hours to make sure everything goes off well. For every concert, every rodeo performance or every ride on the carnival, many people have worked days, weeks, and even months for it all to happen.
“The countless hours we put in just go unseen,” said Dustin Standley, president of the Waller County Fair Board, which helps produce the annual event, set for Saturday, Sept. 30-Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.
“There are several board members that work year-round. From year to year, the amount of people we have at WCFA grows. It’s a large staff of people you see, and they’re all volunteer.”
The fair board consists of nine executive directors, 17 directors, 38 associate directors and 22 junior fair directors. It takes each and every one of them to handle such a heavy work load. Standley likens the fair board to a pie; while there are many ingredients, it can come together to make the final piece taste just as awesome as the first cut.
“A pie isn’t going to taste good with just crust or just filling,” he said. “You have to bring it all together and mix it up to make it work right. For our fair and rodeo, everybody doesn’t have to do the same thing.
“We need each person to do what they do well so that when it comes together, it’s enjoyable for everybody.”
No matter the job, our dedicated volunteers handle the duty. Preparatory work takes weeks to do, because directors understand that it’s more than a county fair in southeast Texas; the Waller County Fair and Rodeo is a regional exposition.
“It all really starts long before the fair begins,” said Standley, who noted that daily work began in January. “We’ve been having multiple work days just to get prepared. During the week of the fair, it’s thousands of man hours that make the fair succeed.
“It’s like a beehive; we all have a job, and we all know what we need to do. Everybody has a job and a position, and as long as we fulfill those jobs, it’ll all go off without a hitch.”
It’s more than volunteers that make the fair and rodeo a success each year. The directors lean on sponsors to help cover the costs associated with a production of this size. After all, there are eight acts that will perform throughout the fair as well as the other activities that take place.
The key objective is to help raise money for youth and scholarship, and it’s important to each person involved that more money is raised each year to fulfill that mission.
“The main thing about the sponsorships is that our biggest goal is to adhere to our mission to youth and scholarship,” he said. “There is a cost of doing business. If you can’t cover your cost of doing business, then what your revenue is at the fair will have to cover that cost.
“That means we are not doing justice to the kids in our area. We’ve done creative things with our sponsors that works.”
That creativity has paid off. After the 2016 exposition, the fair board handed out more than $75,000 in scholarships. The goal for the 2017 edition is to better that.
“When we go in to our fair week, our bottom-line dollar is at its minimum amount so we can maximize the dollars that go to our youth,” Standley said. “We’ve allowed our sponsors the freedom to tell us what they want, and we’re able to make it work for them and us.
“With our fair and rodeo, it really is a collaborative effort.”