Free shuttles offered at Washington County Fair


submitted photo • Lake Elmo Rotarians Jackie and Ray Marshall posed by the club’s free shuttles before a volunteer shift at a past Washington County Fair. This year the shuttles will be offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug 5.

submitted photo • Tedi Carlson, past president of the Lake Elmo Rotary Club, shuttled a fairgoer to the parking area during a past Washington County Fair.

For the past eight years or so, the Lake Elmo Rotary Club has provided a free shuttle service at the Washington County Fair for those with mobility issues. 

The service will be offered again this year from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug 5.

The Lake Elmo Rotary Club is the local chapter of an international volunteer service organization.

Fair entertainment manager, Liz Dietsche, who helped get the shuttle program started, notes that it initially targeted seniors, though over time it has expanded to include anyone with mobility issues and those who might be struggling to cover ground, including parents with young children.

The shuttles will take people from the parking area into the fairgrounds, from the fairgrounds to the parking area or between points of interest within the fairgrounds.

“We wanted to give people a glimpse of the fair that they might not get because they maybe could only see a piece of it due to their lack of mobility, so this gives people a chance to actually go in a barn, look at the animals [or] go to the draft horse show,” Dietsche says.

Dietsche and Paul Erickson, the Lake Elmo Rotary service chair, already knew each other through their professional careers in the health field when the opportunity first came up to provide the shuttle service at the fair.

“As we were talking, he was talking about how they like to have projects and things like that, and I said ‘What do you think about this idea?’” Dietsche remembers. “[The Rotarians] were not only willing to drive the carts, but they were also willing to sponsor them because I needed two things: I needed it funded, and I needed to have drivers.”

The club rents two golf carts to be used as shuttles. Erickson estimates this year it cost the club $100 per golf cart per day. 

There are some 24 volunteer shifts to fill over the three days the service is offered, so most of the local Rotarians participate, Erickson says, adding that some even get their family members to help out.

“I think the club really likes it, and I know it’s appreciated by the seniors and those that really need the lift at the fairgrounds,” Erickson says, adding with a laugh, “We haven’t had any casualties, which is good.”

Erickson says that this year, near where tickets are purchased, there will be signage indicating where the free shuttle will pick people up.

“The cart will be there. The cart will have signage on it as well. You’ll definitely know that it’s a Lake Elmo Rotary-sponsored free shuttle, and then we take them where they want to go,” Erickson says. “Again, there is no charge for the service, and honestly, anyone can ride.”

Tedi Carlson, a past president of the Lake Elmo Rotary Club, says that in addition to the pick-up points, the shuttles will also be roaming around the fairgrounds looking for those who may need a lift.

Carlson adds that the Lake Elmo Rotary Club participates in local service projects like this throughout the year and is always welcoming new members. 

Those interested in joining can drop in to one of the club’s weekly breakfast meetings, held at 7 a.m. every Wednesday at Lake Elmo Inn, 3442 Lake Elmo Ave. N. The club’s occasional evening meetings are posted on the Rotary Club website, www.lakeelmorotary.org.

 

– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akiney@lillienews.com

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