From Wednesday to Sunday, May 3 to 7, approximately 25,000 people will go through the front gates of the Verde Valley Fair.
It’s an impressive number, made more impressive by the fact that Cottonwood’s Verde Valley Fair is one of a kind — the only fair in the state run by a nonprofit instead of a municipality or county.
“We aren’t controlled by the city, county, anybody,” VVF Director Coleen said. “We are owned by the people who love the fair.”
The 100-plus member Verde Valley Fair Association elects a fivemember executive board and employs only four permanent people to run the fairgrounds: A director, a full-time maintenance person, a part-time maintenance person and a parttime janitor. These four people are all the VVFA employs for the majority of the year.
The dozens of events hosted at the fairgrounds annually do demand temporary employees, but overall the staff gets by with what it has. For the five days of the annual fair, the number of employees temporarily swells to over a dozen, including maintenance and cleaning staff. But that’s still not a lot of people, Gilboy admitted.
The question occurs, then, how does the fair manage 25,000 people coming through its gate each year?
According to Gilboy, it’s mostly volunteers — so many that she has to pause for a moment to account for all of them. Ultimately, Gilboy arrives at an approximate figure well in excess of 100 people. “It’s our community that sustains us. We can’t do it without them.”
This year, Gilboy said to expect more of what has made the fair work so well in recent years, namely an emphasis on “strolling” entertainment, where people can encounter performers face-to-face.
Last year, one of the biggest hits among kids was Prehistoric Adventures, which featured a walking Tyrannosaurus Rex. In 2017, the performers are stepping up their game, turning the T-Rex into a fire-breathing dragon.
RC Truck Racing Tournaments, another hit revived from 2016, is taking place, along with the usual array of musical entertainment, games, rides and food vendors.
Gilboy said the value of an $8 gate pass is in such entertainment options: “I feel like we give a small town feel [but] we spend over $50,000 on entertainment. People don’t understand that. That’s what your entry fee gets you.
“It seems like everywhere you go, it’s money, money, money .... We try to give you something.”
The fair has partnered with the Cowboy Shop in Cottonwood to reward one lucky customer with a golden ticket, a la “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“We don’t even know how it’s triggered,” Gilboy said, speculating on whether or not it’s a specific purchase or simply a numbers game to win the ticket.
The prize will give its holder a variety of perks at the fair. If the plan works out, Gilboy said that next year the VVFA may hand task a number of local businesses with handing out golden tickets.
The single most important aspect of planning and executing the fair for Gilboy, however, is guaranteeing a safe and, above all, sanitary environment. According to her, people won’t enjoy themselves if they feel the facilities are ill maintained.
“My employees know, trash is first, bathrooms are second .... My biggest thing is, I want it clean.”
Of course, for Gilboy the fair marks the beginning of yet another year of organizing and rallying her reserves: “We are literally planning for next year while the fair is going on.”