BLACKFOOT — Barry Adams held an extremely demanding job that required the skills of a jack of all trades during his approximately 30 years as superintendent of the Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds.
It seems walking away from that workload will be a tall order, however, for the capable 65-year-old Blackfoot man.
Adams retired on June 26, but old habits die hard.
During the recent Eastern Idaho State Fair, which ran from Sept. 3 to 11, his wife, Brenda, lost track of the number of times she heard her husband offer to a fair official, “If you need help, give me a call.”
“I told him, ‘You’re retired!’” Brenda said.
One day during fair week, Adams volunteered from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help set up for a big event. He also logged several hours throughout the rest of the event picking up litter throughout the fairgrounds.
“You work here this long, it’s in your blood,” Adams said.
He explained the job recently left was quite literally in his blood. Adams’ uncle was the fairgrounds superintendent for several years before he took over the full-time job in 1992.
While his uncle was in charge, Adams and a partner ran their own business, B & D Construction, which was hired to build displays and pour cement to make culverts and floors throughout the facility. Adams applied to replace his uncle, but another candidate was initially chosen, based on the fair board’s desire to avoid the appearance of nepotism. That person didn’t work out, however, and Adams proved to be the ideal fit.
Adams had a background in welding, carpentry, plumbing, basic electrical work and several other handyman skills, enabling the fairgrounds to accomplish quite a bit of its upkeep and renovation in house.
“There probably will never be someone like Barry again, and I hope there is because we could sure use another Barry. ... He’ll be a hard one to replace. In fact, I would say it will take many years to truly replace Barry,” said Brandon Bird, general manager of the Eastern Idaho State Fair. “We handled a lot of things in-house rather than contracting them out, and that was primarily because of Barry’s great ability to make things, and make them well.”
Adams’ personal touches can be seen throughout the fairgrounds. Bird noted Barry had a central role in most of the projects at the fairgrounds for the better part of three decades. His distinctive style is evident, for example, in the drinking fountain he created from a horse trough and in the western flourishes above the restrooms he renovated.
He was responsible for the new hospitality trailer at the fairgrounds.
And he transformed a metal garage into a saloon when the fairgrounds looked to add a beer garden.
“We put his dad’s brand on the wall,” Brenda, who works for Wada Farms, recalled. “That sparked the American Legion to have people bring their brands.”
Adams used to have a small business making rustic furniture — a skillset that proved useful in the saloon project.
“I would take old wood or old anything and just make it into something new that it isn’t,” Adams said. “That’s kind of been my background; that’s where my saloon came from.”
Adams explained the fairgrounds had acquired an old, adjacent home, looking to add more land. Barry salvaged the material from the home’s wooden fence, as well as wagon wheels lining the yard and rustic lumber from when the small house was demolished, and included it in the design of his saloon.
Looking back on his career, Adams is quick to give the credit for keeping the fairgrounds clean and well maintained throughout the years to his crews.
“It’s your crew and the people who work under you who are the ones who make you look good,” Adams said.
Logan McDougall, who now works as public information officer for the city of Pocatello, was among those workers. McDougall said he learned invaluable skills through his seasonal employment on Adams’ maintenance crew on and off from 2002 through 2010. McDougall said Adams was a patient, kind and fun boss.
“I learned a lot of hands-on skills at that job that I didn’t have previously. ... What I really appreciated about it was he was able to pass that along to me and the other employees there,” McDougall said.