09/30/08 — Local volunteers have kept fair going strong for past 60 years

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Local volunteers have kept fair going strong for past 60 years

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on September 30, 2008 1:55 PM

News-Argus/Winkie Lee

Susan Anderson and her father, "Mr. Bud" Aycock, view a horse exhibit space at the fair. Aycock has worked at the fair for 59 of its 60 years; Mrs. Anderson has done the same for 15 years.

Over the past 60 years, there have been many changes at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair -- a new location, new buildings, new attractions -- but one constant has been the fair's ability to bring families and friends together. For many, it's a tradition.

That's why many of the people who work at the fair -- from selling tickets to cleaning the bathrooms -- give up their vacation or come out of retirement to help ensure the fair's success.

At least 20 of the people on the fair staff this year have taken vacation to help, Fair Manager Milton Ingram said. Some are retirees. Others are working during their off-duty hours.

For the last 30 years, Susan Anderson of Nahunta has worked as a customer service representative for AgCarolina Financial, formerly known as East Carolina Farm Credit. And for the past 15 years, she has used part of her vacation to work in the fair office, answering phones, giving directions, helping with paperwork and assisting with her favorite attraction, the demolition derby.

For her, helping out at the fair is a family tradition. Her father, Bud Aycock, has been involved in every Wayne fair except for one. A member of the Wayne County Livestock Development Association and a horse owner, he said he still enjoys seeing friends, helping with fundraiser events for the association and sponsoring the junior showmanship competition.

Mrs. Anderson got her start when she was still a school girl. Her mother, Belle, would pick her up from school and take her to the fair. She said she has always loved the animals, the rides, and seeing friends. She said her birthday used to fall during fair week. Now, her father's birthday falls during the fair. On Saturday, he will turn 85 and said he will probably spend the day at the fairgrounds.

Despite having seen 59 fairs, Aycock's enthusiasm hasn't waned.

"You can ride along and see the friends you have known all these years. They can smile and throw up their hand. That's enough for me."

Belmon Bailey, 56, of the Rosewood community, has been with the fair for 33 years. An electrician for the county schools, he serves as electrician and building and grounds superintendent for the fair.

Bailey began working at the fair in 1974 to help his father, the late Durwood Bailey, in the parking lot. The job provided him with some extra money, which was a big help for the young newlywed. But it wasn't the money that kept him returning, he said. It was the people, especially the fair staff.

"They're good people to work with," he said. "When you ask them to do something, they don't mind. Everybody pulls together, and we get stuff done."

His staff includes his son, Chris.

Willie Outlaw, 75, has worked at the fair for 18 years. His and his crew's responsibility is to keep the seven bathrooms and six hand washing stations clean.

Outlaw takes pride in his work and said it pleases him when he hears people compliment the bathrooms' cleanliness.

Retired from a career at O'Berry Center, Outlaw now paints houses when he gets a chance, but says nothing beats working at the fair.

"I like the staff. Since I first started here, I have been treated good," he said.

He laughed as he repeated what he is usually told when he goes to collect his paycheck after the fair is over.

"They say, 'We'll pay you if you say you're coming back here near year."

Gwen Bishop, 63, lived in Wayne County when she began working at the fair. Then an employee of the county water system, she became interested after hearing fellow employee and fair worker Joey Threewitts talk about it.

Now living in Duplin County and working for the water department there, Ms. Bishop sells tickets. Like the other veteran fair workers, she speaks of the pleasure of seeing old friends and the joy of seeing people having fun, especially the young people who attend.

"The kids are excited," she said. "They're saying, 'Come on, Mom, let's go!'"