Thomas Barnett to replace Nancy Gehrig
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The author and illustrator known for creating “Bob the Hodag” was selected Tuesday by Oneida County’s Fair Planning Committee to be the next fair coordinator.
Thomas Barnett has been picked to replace Nancy Gehrig, who stepped down following last year’s fair after having been the coordinator since 2013.
“We got an excellent candidate,” said county supervisor Jim Winkler, a fair committee member, who noted five people applied for the position. “I think he’s going to do an excellent job.”
Winkler said Barnett, who is an illustrator with a background in marketing and planning, will be a part-time contracted employee whose hiring will be finalized at Monday’s county Conservation and UW-Extension Education Committee meeting.
Barnett said he is excited about becoming the fair coordinator, noting he has “big shoes to fill” in replacing Gehrig, who will be helping him transition into the position.
When asked about what he hopes to bring to the fair, Barnett emphasized “fresh ideas.” He said he wants to “look at adding more things to do and see” and have the annual event become “bigger and better.”
Barnett, who has been a vendor at the fair, said he would like to see more events at the exhibit court and have more entertainment for kids, with the latter including performances and contests.
He said he would like to begin expanding what the fair has to offer this year and add more in 2019.
As a professional illustrator and cartoonist, Barnett said he is able to “set my own hours” and commit the necessary time to be the fair coordinator, which he would like to do for the long term.
When asked about the fair’s current location at Pioneer Park in Rhinelander, Barnett said he sees “lots of opportunities to utilize space.” For the time being, he noted he favors continuing to hold the fair at Pioneer Park each year in early August as well as having free admission for those who attend.