At full strength, the board of directors that’s elected by the Fowlerville Agriculture Society to put on the annual fair and administer the fairgrounds during the rest of the year, has 16 directors. They come from various backgrounds and offer different perspectives and talents.
One of them is Annette Chamberlain who has been part of the fair board since the fall of 2012. Annette is quick to point out that she’s “just doing what’s expected of a board member” and there’s no reason to single her out as doing something above and beyond what others (directors, the fair manager and staff, and assorted volunteers) do in putting on the fair and maintaining the grounds.
Which is true. But, as fair manager Jennifer Rhodes said, “Annette has brought an energy and enthusiasm to her involvement and stepped up to do a number of tasks.”
For example, one of her first responsibilities as a board member was to make sure the restrooms were cleaned during fair week and the Easy Riders Rodeo. “Some people don’t like doing that sort of work, but it’s just a job so I volunteered to do it.”
She and her family also donated a pig that was used to generate money for the Family Impact Center. “We sold raffle tickets and delivered the processed meat to the winner,” she noted. “We were able to give around $3,000 to the Center from the sales.”
This year, when Cindy Salfate—who had organized the Ladies Day Program—decided to leave the fair board, Annette took on that duty as well. She has a sister and niece who are beekeepers in Maryland and will be the main speakers at this Monday’s event, talking about the benefits of eating honey and the importance of honey bees to gardens and to pollinating fruits and other crops.
“I felt this subject would be a great educational topic for people to learn more about,” Annette explained.
Because the Fowlerville Family Fair is the fair for Livingston County, she decided to reach out to businesses throughout the county, as well as parts of Ingham County, for donations to the lunch served at the end to the program as well as the door prizes that are given away.
“We have around 60 gifts that have been donated,” she added.
In addition to those specific tasks, Annette—before, during and after fair week along with the rest of the year— “does whatever needs to be done to help out.”
Along with being a fair board member, she is also a leader of the County Line Rebels 4-H group. “Our club has 23 members who bring various livestock, poultry and still exhibits to the fair,” Annette said, adding that she has been a leader for over 20 years.
Her involvement began when her two daughters, Brooke and Lindsey, were in 4-H and has continued since they’ve grown and gotten married and now have their own children taking part in this activity.
“Both of our daughters showed steers and pigs when they were young,” she noted. “We went to the State Fair and different shows along with the Fowlerville Fair for many years. Two of our grandchildren are now in 4-H—Nate Densmore is nine and bringing a feeder calf for the first year of showing and Bristol Densmore is six and in Cloverbuds. Two more grandchildren will be in Cloverbuds next year—Virginia Densmore and Ethan Latta. We have a younger grandchild, Kendall Latta, who is still too young.”
Annette said that she seeks to get her club members involved in other activities besides their projects. “We have a section of South M-52 that we clean the roadsides of litter and have been doing this for around 10 years,” she said.
She also involved the club, and others, in a fair improvement project with the Boots Gazebo, located in front of the 4-H Building. “We painted it white, installed screening across the ceiling to keep out the nesting birds, and removed the old bushes. We also put in $200 in new plants and new mulch. Also, my husband (Ralph Chamberlain III) works for the bridge company, C.A. Hall, and we were able to get guardrail to place on three sides of the building.”
The Chamberlains reside on 10 acres in northwest Conway Township where they raise pigs to sell as freezer pork and some crops.
Annette was born in 1963. Her parents, Earl and Beth Brown, had previously purchased the former Brown Country School at the corner of Stow and Sherwood Roads. She grew up in that home. She is one of three daughters—her sisters being Teresa Richards and Michelle Strong.
“My father did bridge work and my mother worked for Schmidt’s grocery store in Okemos,” she said. “I attended Fowlerville schools, ran track and played in the band during high school, and worked at Schmidt’s as a part-time job.”
After graduating from high school in 1981, she attended Southeastern Academy with an initial goal of having a career with an airline, and then worked at various jobs afterwords, including a year for National Car Rental at the Lansing Airport.
She and Ralph were married in 1984. He is a Webberville High School graduate. “He was part of 4-H when he was growing up and showed livestock,” she noted. “When I got married, I moved to our home that’s 3.4 miles from my parents’ place.”
In 1989, Annette was hired as a cook for the Fowlerville Community Schools and was promoted as manager of food services at the high school in 1999.
As for how she became a fair board member, Annette said that fellow board member Claudia Davison called and asked if she would serve if elected.
“At first I was reluctant, but then I thought ‘we’re here to make a difference for our kids and grandkids and if I didn’t volunteer to help, then I had no business complaining about things’,” she said. “I was raised that if you do something, put in 110 percent. Every year as a board member, I’ve learned a little more, making things a little smoother. I’m learning where I can best pitch in and help.
“I don’t feel what I’m doing is a big deal,” she said. “I took the position, so I try to do the best I can. I hope I’m bringing a fresh perspective to the board with my background and talents and will help make things better. That’s the goal of all of the fair board members, the staff, and all of the volunteers.”