GOSHEN — Leading the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Parade this year are a couple of people whose behind-the-scenes jobs keep the fair safe and moving.
Phil and Sharon Wogoman have spent the past 25 years on the fair board.
Phil, the 1999 fair president, is the emergency management/safety director. Sharon is the gate admissions director. Both are big jobs that are vital to the fair.
The two were surprised to be tapped for parade marshal by Fair Board President Tim Graber.
“I don’t feel I’m the kind of guy to be parade marshal,” Phil said.
Prior to the opening of the fair, Phil checks out all of the rides to make sure they are safe. Phil is no mere paperwork guy either — he goes on the rides, too. His favorite: the Yo-Yo.
“I don’t do spinny rides for anybody,” Phil said. “Even the little brown bears (ride) — I can’t do that.”
Phil is also responsible for the safety of fair attendees by keeping an eye on the weather.
“Weather is my focus 24/7,” he said. Weather forecasting starts on the Wednesday prior to the fair and goes through the last Sunday of the fair.
He uses a private weather service to keep him constantly updated. Phil keeps attuned to the strength of winds, lightning and severe weather.
During concerts, Phil can be found near the stage so he can tell performers if it’s going to storm.
“I have had to shut down the fair,” Phil said. “One year I completely shut the fair down twice.”
He said it seems like the grandstands get evacuated at least once during each fair.
“People don’t realize how quick (a storm) moves,” he said. “I would rather be proactive than reactive.”
When severe weather does move in, Phil contacts Sharon to have her communicate the situation to people in the booths and at the gates.
“We have one of the best emergency plans in the state,” Phil said, adding that the plans have been practiced, changed and perfected. ‘I don’t think there’s anything else we can do.”
Sharon also has her area down to a science. She makes sure people have entrance tickets and parking passes. She starts her day early stocking the gates with tickets and stamps and doesn’t finish until after 11 p.m. Sharon’s job keeps her running constantly throughout the day. That’s why she doesn’t eat any carbs or sugar during the fair — “to keep my energy up,” she said. “I do allow myself a pretzel Saturday night.” The rest of the time its salads and steak tips.
Her duties also include keeping track of ticket sales, comparing them from one day to the next.
Because of their long hours, she and Phil take the week off of work and camp out at the fair.
Their businesses, Middlebury Electric Inc. and Eagle Ready-Mix Inc., are well-taken care of while they are away.
One thing Sharon hopes she won’t be too busy for is the Vince Gill concert. Usually, Sharon can’t attend the concerts because of her gate director duties. However, her 91-year-old mom would really like to see Vince Gill. “So I hope to work it out,” she said.
Phil said he is just looking forward to a nice, safe fair with moderate weather — and some Kiwanis food.
About the Wogomans
- Owners of Middlebury Electric Inc. and Eagle Ready-Mix Inc.
-Parents of four sons: Dan Wagner, chief financial officer of NAME, the carnival used at the fair; Jeff Wogoman, a Goshen firefighter and fire chief for Middlebury Fire Department; Lanny Wagner, vice president of Eagle Ready-Mix; and Jason Wogoman, an Elkhart firefighter who works part time at Eagle.
- They have eight grandchildren, two of whom are in 4-H Saddle Club.
- On the fair board for 25 years.
- Along with emergency/safety director duties, Phil is on the long-range planning, technology and land development committees. He was the 1999 fair president and was a 2011 Indiana Association of Fairs and Festivals Hall of Fame Inductee.
- Sharon has been the gate admissions director since 1989. She is on the governance, personnel and golf committee and has served on the executive committee as director at large for four terms.