By Marada Cook
Do you ever wonder who’s behind getting the Common Ground Fair set up, and who’s in charge of cleaning up the Fair once the fun is over? Rick Kipp, 54, does all these things and more, has been a MOFGA volunteer for the past 20 years, and is now the full-time maintenance manager for MOFGA’s educational facility in Unity. “When my kids were young, I needed something to do with them on the weekend,” says Rick, “so I took them to the Fair. We liked it so much we came back the next year as volunteers, and have kept on coming since then.”
For 12 years Rick has been a member of the Fair Steering Committee, where his input helps shape the future of the Common Ground Fair. “Rick works with a diverse group of people during the Fair,” says the Fair’s Coordinator, Heather Spalding, “so he understands how one decision could affect the others. He really sees the big picture.” “I enjoy the challenge,” states Rick. “Trying to make things more interesting and more efficient, working to get things to go as smoothly as possible. You wouldn’t believe it, but back at the Windsor Fairgrounds, if a vendor on the north side was 2 feet off in setting up a booth, then the other side of Fair stuck out 2 feet. That’s how tight the space was.” Rick has a history of seeking new challenges. “I love to garden. I was in the Navy for 23 years, and whenever I was in port I would start a garden.” He grins. “I left gardens all up and down the East Coast. I would get it to the point where it could finally take care of itself, and I’d be called out to sea again. Each location had a different climate. I think I finally chose Maine because it’s weather was more challenging than, say, New Jersey.” He adds, “I always gardened organically, not only because I know it’s better for the environment, but also because they won’t ship poisons through the Navy.”
Rick’s current challenge is to involve young people with the Fair. “I was gardening in Brunswick one year when my eight-year-old neighbor came looking for a snack out of my garden. I told him that while he was in there he could search for some potatoes. He came back five minutes later and said he couldn’t find any. He had no idea that potatoes grew in the ground. That’s scary.” He decided right then and there that kids needed to be educated about how to grow their own food. “If our infrastructure were to break down, kids like my neighbor would have one tough time to survive. Potatoes don’t grow in the grocery store.
“I’d like to see more young people involved in the Fair, coming up with new ideas and helping with the planning end of things,” says Rick, “The Common Ground Fair becomes a big family after a while. Young people keep things exciting.”