Countdown Checklist for Fair

Washington Fair Chairman Jay Nowak, right, a veteran of 10 years on the Fair Board, and Co-Chairman Dale Westhoff, who has been on the board for nine years, take a last-minute look at the operational list of things to do for the five-day event, which begins Wednesday. They are the leaders of a 26-member Fair Board that operates the Fair. Fair Board members represent a total of 132 years of experience. It’s Don Emann’s 32nd year of serving on the board — a record that he adds to every year.

The heat is on — literally — as the Washington Fair Board and volunteers make last-minute preparations for this year’s five-day festival.

“When the gates open, we’ll be ready to go — hot or not — it’s going to be a lot of fun,” promises Chairman Jay Nowak.

The 2011 Fair gets under way Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the city fairgrounds.

Nowak said he’s been checking the extended weather forecasts and likes the one calling for a break in the excessive heat and humidity later this week.

But whatever Mother Nature brings, the Fair Board will be ready for it.

“We anticipate and plan for hot weather every year,” he said. “We will have plenty of cooling stations and water, and for the first time the home economics buildings will be air-conditioned, providing a very large space for fairgoers to get out of the heat.”

Nowak, who talked to The Missourian from the fairgrounds, said final preparations are going very well.

“The grounds look great and really if you were to drive by right now, it looks like we could be open,” he said. “We are down to final details. The Main Stage and other tents are up, and Lowery is here setting up the midway so it’s all systems go.”

The credit, he said, goes to his board, the Chamber and city staffs, and the countless volunteers, who turn out year after year to make the Fair happen.

“I know I sound like a broken record, but I really can’t say enough about everyone who helps on this. It’s really something to see,” he remarked.

Despite the heat, Nowak said he expects big crowds for the Main Stage acts which open Thursday night with Little Big Town. On Friday night Collective Soul will perform and LifeHouse takes the stage Saturday evening. Closing out the Fair will be Joe Nichols.

“If I had to guess I would say Little Big Town and LifeHouse will draw the biggest crowds, but I anticipate all of them will do well based on the feedback we’ve been getting,” he said.

The new layout at the fairgrounds should also be a crowd-pleaser, the chairman said. The entertainment tent has been moved to where the merchants tent used to be, providing a flat, hard surface for dancing and allowing more space for the Rotary and Lions to set up their booths.

Agri-Land has moved to the entertainment tent’s old spot and will be located next to SafetyLand, providing a large “family-friendly” area, Nowak said.

The chairman said it’s not too late to purchase a season pass, which will be available at all of the gates opening day.

“We invite everyone to come out. Like our theme says, the Fair is always ‘The Best Days of Summer’ and this year will not disappoint,” he said.

And if the two pre-Fair events over the weekend are any indication, Nowak said the heat won’t keep people away.

“We had great turnouts at both the run/walk and parade and it was wonderful to see all of the excitement leading up to the Fair opening,” he said.