Barbara Shifflett: My (county) fair lady
There were two well-known Barbara Shiffletts in town. Now there's one.
Event management is the specialty of one of the Barbara Shiffletts, and so apparently it was no big deal to make time for her own wedding in the month before her biggest annual happening, the Albemarle County Fair.
The nuptials also serve to lessen confusion with the Barbara Shifflett who owns Station and Mono Loco restaurants. The county fair boss will henceforth be known as Barbara Lundgren.
She's still on the farm, though. Her new husband is a farmer, and this morning she's back from her honeymoon and a little distracted because a steer has escaped.
After five years of running the deficit-and-weather-plagued Albemarle County Fair– it rained even during a drought year– Lundgren is not likely to be fazed by a loose steer.
Her rural roots go deep. Her father sold farm machinery, and her sons, two of whom graduated from the Ag School at Virginia Tech, enjoyed showing animals at the county fair. The next thing she knew, she was on the Albemarle County Fair board and in early 2003, she officially was hired as the fair's first executive director.
"This is the only event that celebrates our agricultural heritage," says Shifflett– er, Lundgren. And that's important. "How many kids don't know where eggs really come from– or that milk doesn't come from the store?" she asks.
As educational as the fair is, let's face it, kids come for the rides and the food. Even Lundgren admits the food is her favorite part, and this year the fair is breaking new ground in county fair cuisine by adding seafood.
The volunteers compare notes on the offerings, and Lundgren doesn't worry about a steady diet of high-cal funnel cakes, cotton candy, and Italian sausages. After spending three weeks at the fairgrounds without A/C, "We work it off," she says of the lard-laden delights.
And after years of bad weather– culminating in last year's tent collapse during a microburst– Lundgren has tried to turn adversity to advantage with this year's new events: a drag show, the Miss Emergency Pageant, featuring fire and rescue workers, and a raingear fashion show.
But she's still the optimist and believes this is the year the weather will be perfect, and the fair will break even.
"We're not jinxed," she declares. We're with ya, babe.
What brought you here? I'm a native of Charlottesville– one of the few.
Worst about living here? Seeing the farmland disappear
Favorite hangout? On a boat
Most overrated virtue? My organizational skills
What would people be surprised to know about you? That I am a grandma– Hayley's "Grammy," to be exact
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My patience level– I want everything fixed, but sometimes it just can't be.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? Surviving what life deals, and still smiling (at least most days)
What do people find most annoying about you? Being hyper when I have an event coming up
Whom do you admire? My mentors and encouragers (there are too many to name)
Favorite book? The Little Engine that Could (Captain Kangaroo was my hero)
What subject causes you to rant? Child abuse, neglect, and pornography
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Arts and entertainment, and the creativity of theater production
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Reality shows
What do you drive? Ford Sportrac truck (handy for what I do)
What's in your car CD player right now? Josh Groban– You Raise Me Up
What's your next journey? Back to the Potomac
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Skipping school (please don't tell my kids)
What do you regret? Not staying in touch with old friends
Favorite comfort food? Dark chocolate
What's always in your refrigerator? Olives, sour cream, Slimfast
Must-see TV? ER
Favorite cartoon? Peanuts
Describe a perfect day. 80 degrees and sunny on the water
Walter Mitty fantasy? 80 degrees and sunny at the fair
Who'd play you in the movie? Helen Hunt (they say I look like her)
Most embarrassing moment? Falling in the apple-bobbing tub in the second-grade Halloween Parade
Best advice you ever got? Hang in there– it will get better. So true.
Favorite bumper sticker? Don't talk about farmers with your mouth full.
Barbara Shiflett with a Rolls Royce that's being auctioned off for the Fair.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO