Local woman is fair's unsung hero
Event cancellations over the last couple of years have taken their toll on socialites everywhere. While there are inevitably more cancellations to come as the pandemic continues, some events have returned.
One such event was the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo in August.
And while eventgoers kicked back, relaxed and enjoyed everything the fair had to offer, behind the scenes, one woman was working her tail off to help make it all happen.
That woman is Caroline Erland, and she is Pamplin's Canby and Molalla area Community Hero.
Erland serves as the maintenance supervisor at the fairgrounds and has worked in maintenance there for 26 years.
"I started working in 1995, part-time, a summer job to get school clothes for my son starting kindergarten," Erland said. "He's now 32, so I always say it's the longest dang summer of my life."
The job came about because Erland's next-door neighbor was working at the grounds prepping for a big dog show that year.
"(She) asked me if I needed a job, and I'm like, 'Well yeah, I guess I could do that,' " Erland said. "I started out painting the floral arcade. That was the first thing I did when I started working here. Painting and cleaning bathrooms and waxing floors and just mopping, mopping, mopping. I did a lot of mopping the first few years."
Erland was hired full-time in 1996, and now, when it comes to maintenance, she's the boss.
"We talk about women, and working women, and those that accomplish so much as a woman," said Elan Langridge, who nominated Erland for the recognition, "and she's been doing this before that was happening with equity. She's been a little hard worker.
"She was ahead of her time as a supervisor in her field. She has supervised crews consisting mainly of men."
It's been her perseverance and willingness to learn from others that has helped her come this far. She said she became a maintenance expert through good teachers and a lot of trial and error.
Ahead of the fair, or any event, Erland oversees a crew to prepare the grounds â€“ doing everything from mowing and weeding to setting up bleachers and sound equipment.
She's an unsung hero, according to Langridge.
"A lot of people know who she is, but they don't know what she does," Langridge said. "I don't think I've met anyone like her."
Langridge described Erland as "amazing" and "a gem."
Indeed, many recognize Erland as "the fairgrounds lady," Erland said. But they may not realize all that goes into that title.
"I pretty much work and live the fairgrounds," Erland said.
And her work does not stop with fair preparations. She also works during the event to ensure everything runs smoothly.
"One year, a hired work crew quit in the middle of the county fair, and she stayed up and cleaned every bathroom on the fairgrounds after long and stressful hours," Langridge said.
During fair week, she and her crew respond to broken water lines, electrical needs, cleaning and anything else that requires Erland's expertise.
Erland appreciates help from the fair's livestock staff especially, who she said, "have always had my back."
"There's a lot of people that help put the fair on," Erland said. "They're all heroes to me."
Erland rarely leaves the grounds since her home is located on the property. But when she's not working, she likes to be home taking care of flowers, especially the succulents known as hens and chicks. Erland has entered the fair with hens and chicks arrangements, and she has won the people's choice award for the last six years in a row.
"I go to garage sales and find different things like colanders, and I get the chains from the dollar store, and then I make gifts for people if they have a birthday or whatever," Erland said. "I give them a little thing of hens and chicks. It's kind of my thing."
Erland also enjoys working in the yard, spending time with her dog and visiting her mother, who lives in Woodburn. Erland has two sons, one who lives in Minnesota with his family and another who lives in the area.
She said she is "honored" and "blown away" to receive the recognition as a Pamplin Community Hero.
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