Cindy Bollinger begins organizing the Solanco Fair's annual dairy cattle shows long before the first animal is unloaded.
She sends out entry forms to anyone who exhibited the previous year, keeps track of the entries as they come back, creates the show catalogues, records the results, and makes sure the winners get their premiums for two days of dairy cattle shows at the annual Solanco Fair.
She's been doing it for 47 years and that's one reason the fair's board of directors chose Bollinger to lead the annual street parade as the Grand Marshal.
Mrs. Bollinger first attended the fair 50 years ago when she was a high school senior.
"I was away at college for a year and when I came back, I started volunteering," she said. She and her husband, Dale, were co-chairs of the rural youth competition. Then she got involved with the dairy cattle shows and has been that committee's secretary for decades.
Mrs. Bollinger starts her work in August when she sends applications out to people who exhibited cows in the previous year's fair.
"We've already started getting those forms back for this year," she said last week. Entries will be accepted until early September.
The applications now have to include proof of birth, registration numbers, and veterinarian reports.
By early September, she will begin putting this year's catalogue together.
"I used to type the catalogues and my mom mimeographed them. Now my daughter puts them on the computer," she said.
When the catalogues are complete, Mrs. Bollinger makes signs for each of the entrants. Those signs are then posted in the small show barn when the animals are stabled during the three-day fair.
The fair hosts two dairy cattle shows. On Wednesday morning, colored breed cows are brought into the main show barn's ring. The following morning, Holsteins are judged.
"About 50 percent of the cattle we see are colored breed and the other half Holsteins," she said.
The number of cattle shows has declined in recent years.
"The typical numbers 15 years ago were about 225. With the problems in the dairy industry now, I'm guessing we'll have 150 cows this year," she said.
She helps register animals as they are brought in the Tuesday before the fair starts. That work often extends into the early morning hours of the following day.
On Wednesday, she records the judges' decisions so awards and premiums can be handed out.
"The shows start at 9 in the morning and I write premiums until 5 or 6 each evening," she said.
Mrs. Bollinger is proud of the work the fair's volunteers have done to maintain its rural character.
"I like it that it's still about agriculture and there are no games of chance," she said. "While you can get information about a lot of stuff, the only thing you can buy is food."
Judges brought in to evaluate the contests are also complimentary about the entries.
"No matter what judges we have and how many people show entries, the judges always comment on the high quality of the animals here," she said. "They tell us the animals are the best in the state."
While the judges are impressed, some visitors aren't as interested in the rural achievements the fair has worked to retain.
"People are not as interested in the crops and things," she said. "Too many people are off the farm now. But we think it's important to have the fair show rural life and our traditions."