Carolyn Lewis enjoyed getting involved, met her future husband, Noble, at the fair and, 48 years later, the fair and the fairgrounds remain a big part of their lives.
On Thursday, Oct. 20, the Salem City Council voted to recognize the Lewis' contributions by naming a building at the fairgrounds for them.
"I'm honored, but I don't know that we should be singled out," Carolyn Lewis said, when asked about the council's decision. "A lot of other people have also put a lot of time and effort into the fair and deserve recognition too."
That may be true but, while most fair association members and volunteers are taking a breather after the successful August fair, it is full steam ahead for Lewis.
She is busy putting the finishing touches on two grant applications, seeking funds for projects to improve two buildings at the fairgrounds.
Lewis hopes to receive $100,000 in state General Improvement Funds to renovate the Theater Building.
"The building is sturdy, but the inside is in really bad shape," said Lewis. "We want to insulate it and put in energy efficient doors and windows, air conditioning, new wall coverings and handicapped accessible bathrooms."
The Fair Association believes the lack of air conditioning has hurt participation and attendance at the beauty pageants held in the Theater Building during the fair.
But, after renovating the building, it will be available year round for events, meetings and reunions - rentals that will help the association pay utilities and other costs of maintaining the fairgrounds and running the fair.
At its Oct. 20 meeting, the city council approved a long-term lease with the fair association, to add the theater and clubhouse buildings to fairgrounds facilities it manages and maintains.
The council also voted to support the grant application for the Theater Building.
It was during those discussions that Councilwoman Betty Teague made the motion to name the Theater Building after Carolyn and Noble Lewis. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote.
"We also want to put a 50 by 21 addition onto the exhibit building," Lewis said. "During the fair, we will move flowers and horticulture and, maybe, arts into the new part, and that will give us more room in the main building for more commercial exhibit space."
Lewis is seeking a $15,000 GIF grant for that project, which received Quorum Court support on Oct. 17.
"Those grant applications are due on Nov. 18, but I wanted to get them in the mail by Nov. 1," Lewis said.
In her spare time, Lewis is planning the annual dinner and awards program to be held on Nov. 21 to honor fair volunteers.
"This year, we had about 182 volunteers," said Lewis. "We couldn't do a good county fair without all the people who come in and help run it. We always give them a dinner to thank them."
She is also thinking about changes to make next year's fair "bigger and better than ever."
"Next year, a retired educator has volunteered to take over School Day at the fair, and do some special events for the students," said Lewis. "We also would like to start doing something special for veterans during fair week."
Lewis has been on the Fair Association Board since the late 1970s, and became Fair Manager in 2000, after retiring from the extension service. Does she ever consider taking a real retirement?
"No, not really," Lewis replied. "There's a lot of people around who have long-time involvement in county fairs. It is something that really gets in your blood. It becomes a part of your life."
The same can be said of husband, Noble, who started helping Carolyn with fair obligations when he first met her, and has been at it ever since.
One recent day he was heading to the fairgrounds to take care of some maintenance projects on his list.
All of the work the Lewis' and others put into the county fair and the fairgrounds pays off.
"I think for a small county fair in a county with a small population, we put on a very good fair," said Lewis. "We always have good attendance. I know our gate receipts are above what a lot of other fairs our size bring in."
Other City Council
During its Oct. 17 meeting, the Salem City Council also voted to seek a $90,000 low interest loan from White River Planning and Development.
The money will be used to buy a used dump truck and a new back hoe for use by city departments.
According to Mayor Gary Clayton, the city has delayed the purchases for some time and they need to be replaced.
"We need to get our equipment lined out. We have a dump truck that's like using a wheelbarrow," said Clayton.
While the city has enough money to buy the equipment out right, the council agreed with the mayor that it is best to borrow the money, so the city can keep funds in reserve in the ongoing uncertain economy.
Salem City Council meetings are open to the public.
The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at city hall.