Unsung Heroes: Local couple dedicates years to volunteer at fair

Larry and Terri Sherwin are long time volunteers at the Mid-State Fair.
Photo by Joe Johnston  07-22-10
Larry and Terri Sherwin are long time volunteers at the Mid-State Fair. Photo by Joe Johnston 07-22-10 Tribune

July’s unsung heroes, Larry and Terri Sherwin, have given us a new appreciation of the term “working vacation.”

Every summer, Larry Sherwin takes a couple of weeks off from his job at PG&E. But instead of taking a trip or relaxing around the house, he puts in 10- and 11-hour days volunteering at the Mid-State Fair.

Larry is in charge of the campground where the 4-H and FFA families stay — a locale that morphs into a small city at fair time.

Larry is in charge of logistics, which includes figuring out where people should set up camp and then transporting their trailers by forklift.

In many ways, he’s the guy who keeps the campers happy.

“He works all week long, doing errands and everything we need,” said JoAnn Switzer, livestock supervisor.

Meanwhile, Larry’s wife, Terri, works in the livestock office, answering phones, fielding questions and handling the many clerical duties associated with the livestock auction.

“The last day of the fair we’re exhausted,” she said. “We’re exhausted, but there’s a feeling of ‘Oh no, it’s over!’ ” So we come back every year.”

Terri is quick to point out that she is on staff during the entire run of the Mid-State Fair; unlike her husband, she’s no longer there strictly in a volunteer capacity. Yet she logged countless hours as a volunteer during her years as a 4-H leader, when her children raised and showed animals.

That involvement with 4-H led the couple to start lending a hand at the fair.

“The days we weren’t showing, I’d come in here and start volunteering,” said Larry.

These days, Larry is the one who gets called if there’s any kind of issue at the 4-H/FFA camp. If, for example, a car is blocking the road or there’s a power outage, Larry is on the scene. He also assists with the livestock shows, which includes helping with the various livestock weigh-ins.

And because the couple camp at the fair themselves, they’re literally on hand 24/7.

While that level of commitment is unusual, keep in mind that Larry is just one member of a small army of volunteers who provide invaluable assistance throughout the fair. There are easily 500 volunteers, if not more, estimates Tom Keffury, director of marketing and sponsorships.

“I don’t really know how the fair would exist without them,” he said.

Fortunately, the fair won’t have to do without the Sherwins any time soon.

Though their three children, Katie, Kellee and Kevin, have all graduated from high school and no longer show at the fair, the Sherwins remain as committed as ever.

Terri, a job placement specialist for county schools, sees lifelong value in the lessons that children learn from participating at the fair.

“I know the experiences these kids have here are really going to help them in the job world,” said Terri. “They’re learning job skills here and learning people skills.”

Besides, it won’t be too much longer before the next generation of Sherwins is taking part in the Mid-State Fair.

The couple has one grandchild, Kade, who is 5, and anther, Macey, who is 20 months. They’ll be eligible to start showing animals at the fair when they’re 9.

“Four more years” said Larry.

Editor's note:

This is another in a series of monthly editorials celebrating the unsung heroes in our community.

By highlighting individuals who unselfishly apply their energy and skills to lighten the burden of others, we hope, first, to offer these community heroes the appreciation they deserve; second, to let those who could use the help know of available resources; and third, to inspire others who are able to help in whatever way possible.

If you would like to nominate an unsung hero, contact us at letters@thetribunenews.com.