Stroll along the grounds of the Paso Robles Event Center during the annual California Mid-State Fair, peruse the exhibits, enjoy the concerts and rides, and then step back and take a moment or two to appreciate all that goes into making it the “Biggest Little Fair Anywhere!” Chances are, some of the people responsible for landscaping, decorations, crowd control, and monitoring the exhibits are volunteers – Friends of the Fair – that give freely of their time year after year.
One such volunteer was recently recognized for her work in 2017 and over the past several years – Maribeth Bonomi. When her name was announced as the Friend of the Fair of the Year 2017 at the annual volunteer dinner, Maribeth said she was “shocked!”
“When I heard my name, I could not believe it,” she said. “I see people helping out and doing amazing things around the fairground; they work for hours upon hours, spend days out here, maybe even the entire length of the fair. So, for me to be singled out – wow! I am truly humbled and I appreciate this show of kindness a great deal. This is such a nice honor.”
One unexpected but much-coveted bonus? Maribeth now has her very own parking spot during this year’s Fair! “I am used to walking from blocks away and so this will be quite a treat to not have to look for parking this year!”
A retired local elementary school teacher, Maribeth became involved with the Fair when she offered to help her friend, Patti Lucas, with the Miss CMSF Pageant She refers to herself as being Patti’s “helper bee.”
“I ask the girls questions, help them get what they need, and go to events as a chaperone,” she said. “I help get notices out to the local high schools and colleges to get more girls involved, and work behind the stage with the girls. I enjoy getting to know the girls and establishing close relationships with each of them. I try to help boost their confidence, keep them moving forward, and remind them of what they need to do.”
As part of the pageant requirements, the contestants help in various aspects of volunteer work with Friends of the Fair, so it was natural for Maribeth to become involved with helping in that area as well.
Tisha Tucker of the CMSF said, “Maribeth has been a fantastic volunteer for the Friends of the Fair program. She also helps a lot with the pageant and helps Patti before and during the fair. She has also helped with the parade; whenever she is [at the parade] with the pageant girls she’s willing to jump in and help push one of the floats. She is willing to take extra shifts that may need to be filled; she always does her best to try and help [including] in the information booth. Maribeth has gone above and beyond and she truly deserves the title of Friend of the Fair of the Year!”
Maribeth said one thing she learned the first year she volunteered was how much work is involved. “I’d gone to the Fair for probably 38 years and I somehow never realized this. You go there, and it’s all done – the flowers are blooming, the signs are up, and everything looks pretty. When I started volunteering, I realized people work really hard to get the grounds to look so beautiful and to get things organized and moving; that shocked me that I never took the time to think about all the work involved to get ready for Fair time.”
When asked why she volunteers, Maribeth’s answer was simple: “I work on the theory of…if we all work together and help each other we can accomplish more. I tell my kids all the time, MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK! During one of the work days in June, everyone was working together, asking one another what we could do to help someone else, and we got a lot done a lot faster…it just makes more sense!”
Part of the fun with being a Friends of the Fair volunteer, Maribeth shared, is the opportunity to work with and get to know others in the local community. “I have met lots of people through the Fair; it’s a fun adventure and I enjoy it. I am involved with other volunteer work in the community as well, but I don’t do it for any kind of recognition. I do it because I want to be involved and I don’t expect anything in return. I just like to help.”
Many people will recognize Maribeth from her years of teaching at local schools. After working in Lockwood for four years and San Lucas for two, Maribeth taught for nine years in Shandon and, most recently, 17 years at Winifred Pifer Elementary School. Maribeth and her husband, Jim, are parents to three adult children – Kyle, Cherish, and Lindsy – and have a five-year-old grandson, Zander.
Find information on becoming involved with Friends of the Fair at
Meagan Friberg can be reached at