“When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on the bay
I want to be there in my city
Oh, oh, oh-oh, oh oh oh.”
ourney’s song “Lights,” heard 20-plus years ago, could be the theme song this week for Nevada County Fairgrounds gardeners Peggy Granados and Tammy Bouchard.
Just substitute fairgrounds for city.
When the fair’s carnival lights and piped-in music are turned off at midnight, the women begin their 10-hour workday.
At an hour when most people are asleep, the gardeners are part of an after-hours, eight-member crew that prepares the grounds for another day.
“I almost feel I have to apologize to the flowers for enduring all the trampling,” said Granados Thursday at midnight as her eagle eye detected an empty popcorn container hidden in a marigold bush in the carnival area. The head gardener has worked the graveyard shift every fair week for 11 years.
Dozens of the now-crumpled marigolds and tattered red, white and blue flowers (in keeping with this year’s patriotic theme) line the walkways as the gardeners repair damage.
In her second year on the job, Bouchard still isn’t used to the trashed flower beds.
“(Before fair week,) we sweat so much in 100-degree weather. After the first day of the fair, seeing this, it hurts,” she said.
Granados has a philosophical approach to the damage.
“It gets kind of congested. A lot of people have nowhere to go but in the flower beds,” Granados said. “The gold path does surprisingly well.”
Her favorite job responsibility during the year is preparing the Gold Path of Gold Galore marigolds that line the main walkway, in anticipation of fair opening day. The celebrated marigolds were planted May 15.
The gardeners have their work cut out for them before the first paying fair goer enters the gates at 10 a.m.
They must water at least 50 flower beds every other night, work on the Gold Path, pamper individual plants as needed, pick up debris throughout the fairgrounds and parking lots, and shuttle fair participants after 6 a.m. to various locations,
“The time surprisingly goes quickly,” Granados said. “There’s a lot to do. You’d think it would make for a long night but by morning, you’re thinking, ‘gee that wasn’t so bad.'”
Vendors, carnival workers and locals who don’t like to see the flowers and lawns pillaged also help control overanxious fair goers during the day, said Bouchard.
The carnival workers especially relish the local fairgrounds, Granados added.
“They do a lot of fairs, and they appreciate the Gold Path and all the flower beds,” Granados said. “Carnival people water the garden in back of Argosy (Preschool) for me and take care of the flowers.”
If there are any drawbacks to taking care of the grounds during fair week, it would be working during the wee hours.
“It’s hard for my internal clock to adjust,” Granados laughingly admitted one hour into her shift. “I got here at 10 p.m., and now my body’s telling me it’s bedtime.”
For Bouchard, the first two fair nights are easier to handle. With children ages 4 and 7, she’s used to long hours.
By the third day, however, Bouchard’s husband takes the kids to the fair “to wear them out.” She jokingly adds that ear plugs come in handy as she grabs a quick nap or two.
But the women have to work those just once a year.
“We just keep on laughing as we walk and walk through the fairgrounds to keep us awake,” Bouchard added. “As the night progresses, we peel our layers of clothes so we’re not too warm and we can stay awake.”
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