By Steve White firstname.lastname@example.org
"Here's where we have paved parking, vendor parking, paid parking."
With the state fair's events and entertainment director as their guide, a behind the scenes tour of the Nebraska State Fair rallies the troops -- the volunteer army called the fair's secret weapon.
They're folks like Jim and Lois Dunham who've been big supporters of the fair's move to Grand Island.
Lois said, "We're glad to have it here."
"Yes we are," Jim added.
To show their support, Jim and Lois and 765 other people will put on yellow shirts and volunteer hundreds of hours to make people feel welcome.
"Oh I think it makes a big difference," Lois said. "People comment a lot if they want something they have someone to ask and always a friendly person to help them."
People like a weatherman's wife with a sunny personality who has volunteered from the start in 2010, knowing Grand Island had one shot to make a good impression, and it did.
Lori Boughton said, "I really looked forward to the State Fair coming to Grand Island and I wanted them to be here so I need to help in anyway I can to keep it here."
Even with a full time and part time job, Boughton serves as many hours as she can.
"Last year I put in 30 hours, this year only 20," she said.
As a zone supervisor, she works with hundreds of volunteers spread out across the grounds.
"I go around and I help people, assist them in any questions they have, any emergency that might arise, anything like that," she explained.
Best of all, volunteers say, is meeting others who live the good life.
Boughton said, "Meeting people from all over the state and knowing why they're here and why they wanted to come here and hope they come back."
Jim and Lois have their assignments as greeters. They're among the volunteers who continue to show Grand Island is a "can-do" community.
It's hard to put a price tag on the volunteers, but last year the fair tried.
The Fair Board made a $100,000 donation to the city in honor of the volunteers.
The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce is still trying to fill more volunteer shifts. You can find volunteer job descriptions online on contact Rhonda Veleba at the Chamber office at 308-382-9210.
They have training sessions on Thursday, August 9 and Saturday, August 11. So far, 767 people are signed up.
Volunteers receive free admission when they work at the fair, and a free T-shirt. Those who volunteer on Labor Day weekend will also be eligible to win tickets to see the Steve Miller Band.
The fair runs August 24 - September 3, but volunteers are needed before, during, and after the event.
Volunteer opportunities include: