An energetic stillness fell over the Agricultural Hall Sunday morning. A few sweepers made their way down the hall between the sparse wood columns, and dust busters periodically roared, but most of the volunteers in attendance stood still, anxiously awaiting their charge.

Suddenly, in through the open door at one end of the hall, the first pickup truck made its entrance, a trailer full of tables in tow. The volunteers sprang into action, working in pairs to unload the wooden slabs, laying out what will soon become the background to the Island’s 161st annual agricultural fair display of fruits, vegetables, arts and craft.

This was the scene at “load-in day,” the unofficial starting shot for fair season on-Island, when volunteers and organizers begin their behind-the-scenes effort to reconstruct the fairgrounds each year. But, as hall manager Janice Haynes noted, fair organizing begins well before any tables hit the ground.

“I’ve been in fair mode for a while now,” she said Sunday, adding that she typically begins hall planning in January. Previously, Ms. Haynes worked as a judge in hall competitions; since her promotion, she said, she doesn’t miss judging at all.

On load-in day, Ms. Haynes is chief visionary, directing volunteer efforts to keep them in line with the plan for the hall.

If Ms. Haynes is the hall’s visionary, then Chris Lyons is the man who makes it happen. As facilities and maintenance manager at the fairgrounds, Mr. Lyons is in charge of a host of responsibilities, from managing weddings to farmer’s market traffic control to building maintenance.

But though his responsibilities are many, managing the construction of the fairgrounds is perhaps his most visible task.

“Everything that goes on inside the walls has to be put together,” explained Mr. Lyons, who sports a long goatee, a cowboy hat and a selection of well-worn fair t-shirts. Even before he came on as facilities manager in 2019, Mr. Lyons was deeply involved with the process

, serving as the “fair carpenter.”

Mr. Lyons arrived on the Island in 1991, working a variety of jobs before he came to the Ag Society. He spent time as a roadie for the local band Entrain and a bouncer and bartender at the Ritz Café, before moving on to a career in construction. He was ultimately unfulfilled in the building trade, however, and wanted to enter a profession which would have more impact on the year-round community.

The key turning point, he recalled, was a conversation he had with Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn. “We decided that we can’t change the world, but we can maybe get a chance to help out our town and our community,” he said

Both Mr. Lyons and Ms. Haynes have been working together on the fair for more than five years now, and met each other decades before.

“She’s a rockstar,” Mr. Lyons said of Ms. Haynes. “She’s strong-willed, and that’s really what she needs to be.” The combination of both their big personalities, he added, can sometimes lead to friction.

“Part of it is butting heads, but in a good way,” he said. “And most of the time Janice is right.”

In an interview on Sunday, Ms. Haynes denied that she was right most of the time, saying that Mr. Lyons was right just as much.

Though it is a supremely stressful job – Mr. Lyons’ annual fair time anxiety begins this week – he finds it more fulfilling than any other he has done, since his work allows him to work to better the community.

“It really is nice to see the people who volunteer, and the sense of belonging they get to something greater than themselves,” he said. “It’s about the ‘we,’ not the ‘I.’”