Willistonian oversees annual event
By Greg Duggan
August 29th, 2013
Between the carnival rides, pig races and copious amounts of fried food that have an annual presence at the Champlain Valley Fair, it was easy to overlook the new opening event. To kick off the Fair on Saturday, 100 or so runners raced around the fairgrounds in a 5K run.
“We always try to do something to bring a new audience to the Fair,” said Tim Shea, the executive director of the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.
The 5K was not the only first at the Fair this year. Shea began working for the Exposition in February 2012, but this year marks his first time overseeing the 10-day Fair on his own. Shea, who lives in Williston with his wife and three sons, became the executive director of the Expo in February 2012. He had previously worked for the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce for 17 years. Shea overlapped with former Expo director David Grimm for approximately six months, and was able to share responsibility for last year’s Fair. Grimm spent more than 20 years with the Expo.
While Shea has sought new ways to attract fairgoers, traditional attractions remain a major part of the Fair. The Maple Shack, animal houses, and carnival rides and booths from Reithoffer Shows Inc. remain staples.
“There’s a balance of hanging onto the nostalgia of the fair, but also reinventing it,” Shea said.
As Shea noted, the Fair has to compete with water parks and amusement parks. He said that attracting fairgoers with new events and discounted tickets – Friday is Military Appreciation Day and Saturday has discounted tickets for anyone wearing pink in support of the American Cancer Society – are a crucial part of the Expo’s future. Though it lasts only 10 days, the Fair accounts for 70 percent of the Expo’s $5 million annual budget. Staff explodes from 15 or so year-round employees to 400 workers and another 100 volunteers during the Fair. Shea and his staff spend months planning and scheduling the nightly music acts and motorsport events.
The Fair may be the Champlain Valley Exposition’s iconic event, but the Expo operates throughout the year. A nonprofit organization, the Exposition was founded in 1922. Now, barely a weekend goes by without some sort of event. Horse shows, home shows and RV shows occupy the Expo at various times, as do flea markets and corporate events. Far Post Soccer Club and Nordic Soccer Club call the Expo home.
All the events keep Shea and the rest of the Exposition staff busy all year long. For 10 days at the end of the summer, however, Shea puts in 13- or 14-hour days. Yet Shea said he still manages to have fun at the Fair, as do his 9-, 8-, and 5-year-old sons.
“They’re keen on the idea that their dad works at the Fair,” Shea said.
The Champlain Valley Fair is located at the Champlain Valley Exposition, 105 Pearl St., Essex Junction. The Fair runs through Monday, Sept. 2. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. There are various admission specials offered – for details, visit www.champlainvalleyfair.org.