On Monday afternoon, fresh hay bales were ready in the sheep barn. Carnival workers were assembling rides. In the 4-H food stand, gallons of maple syrup stood next to 10-pound bags of buttermilk pancake mix.

It was all part of the massive effort to prepare for the Douglas County Fair, a four-day community get-together that begins Wednesday, Aug. 14 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 17, drawing close to 40,000 visitors.

"There's a lot of excitement for it," said board member Brad Brejcha on Monday afternoon. "A lot of excitement for the music this year."

The fair board has planned musical acts for every night of the fair this year. In case of rain, performances will move into the Runestone Community Center.

On Monday, 4-H kids stood in line, waiting to talk to judges about their projects. They brought in birdhouses, dioramas, photos and baked goods, explaining the process to judges.

"You spent time thinking this through," judge Stephanie Grimes told Andrew Sansness, 16, who fastened hundreds of shotgun shells onto plywood in the outline of a deer. "I think it's a fun project."

In previous years, the fair had run from Thursday through Sunday. But the fair board said it hoped that moving the fair ahead one day would provide four full days of the fair, as the crowds traditionally thin considerably Sunday afternoon and evening.

At the same time, the move clipped one day of preparation time, Brejcha said. Board members will assess how well the change works, and welcome feedback from fairgoers, he said.

"If it doesn't work, we'll go back," he said.

In the 4-H food stand, Karol Callfas was turning everything over to Kris Massman. Callfas had run the food stand for many years, but now it was time for someone else to take over, she said.

The most challenging part of running the stand, she said, was to see the overall picture and delegate tasks.

"You've got to break it up," she said. "You can't do it yourself."

If you go

What: Douglas County Fair

Where: The county fairgrounds off County Road 82.

When: Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 14-17. Gates open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, but admission won't be charged until 1 p.m.