Volunteer Kelly Sandman presenting at the Common Ground Country Fair.

Meet MOFGA Volunteer Kelly Sandman

Spring 2024
By Betsy Garrold

Photo credit: Kelly Sandman

Cheerful and welcoming are the two attributes anyone would want for a volunteer coordinating the Auto Gates at the Common Ground Country Fair. And those are the first two words that come to mind when talking to Kelly Sandman. At the Auto Gate, Sandman greets Fair vendors as they drive onsite to unload their cars in the morning and offers directions and encouragement, helping to set the tone for their day as they focus on where they need to get to and the time constraints they are under for getting there and then off the grounds.

Sandman loves doing this particular job at the Fair: first of all because she is a morning person and secondly because she really wants to be the person who says, "So glad to see you, hope your fair is great!" to the drivers as they arrive. Her philosophy is definitely one of positivity. "We are not the bouncers, I tell my volunteers," Sandman says.

Sandman discovered this volunteer job on her first visit to the Fair in 2014. She had come to Maine from Ohio to teach stained glass at a summer camp, but when she heard about the Fair she decided to extend her stay and spend a few days getting to know more about rural Maine. She says she found her people at the event — especially Bethany Oprie, who was the Auto Gates coordinator at the time. Oprie sized Sandman up pretty quickly; by the second day, Sandman was running the second Auto Gate on her own. "I had no idea what I was signing up for but found it was the best gig on the planet … free T-shirt, free camping, free food at the volunteer kitchen, and I got a morning shift so I could spend the rest of the day as a fairgoer," says Sandman.

In her spare time, Sandman is involved with the Come Boating! rowers in Belfast Harbor. She and her crew are preparing for the World Pilot Gig Championships in the United Kingdom this year. And she races toboggans at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships in Camden despite having taken an unexpected dip in the pond at the end of her run in 2022. This adventurous spirit led her to Maine and ultimately to the Fair.

In addition to serving on the Fair steering committee, Sandman runs her own carpentry business working with many different master craftspeople to learn fine carpentry, masonry, metal work and roofing. Sandman is on the lookout for a small piece of land on which she can build a spec house. "Something small, thoughtful, efficient, without toxic materials. Something that speaks to my heart," says Sandman.

And heart is truly what Sandman brings with her wherever she goes — most especially to her job at the Fair. She is a cheerful morning presence at the Auto Gates, helping frazzled vendors start their day off with a smile.

The Fair director, April Boucher, says, "I'm thankful that Kelly coordinates the Auto Gates. It is an important job and Kelly not only ensures that the Auto Gates run smoothly, she also leads and sets a great example for the volunteers she coordinates. Her thoughtfulness is also appreciated at Fair meetings. Thank you Kelly!"

Scroll to Top
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter of happenings at MOFGA.