HARRINGTON — Nobody could see Robert Stuverud sweat as he rode his unicycle, juggled and mingled with the crowd in sweltering 92-degree heat Tuesday afternoon at the 102nd annual Delaware State Fair.
Mr. Stuverud, also known as Roberto the Magnificent, said that even though he is based out of the cooler climate of Seattle, Washington, the heat doesn’t bother him because he loves what he does too much to even notice it.
“I’m pretty conditioned to it,” Mr. Stuverud said. “I’ve performed at events all across the country and I’ve been all over the world doing my show and it’s all about pacing — you’ve got to stay hydrated — and I definitely feed off the energy of the crowd.
“People are having fun and smiling, so the heat doesn’t really bother me too much. You’ve just got to love what you do. I’m just glad to be back here at the fair. This is one of my favorite fairs.”
The temperature at the fairgrounds peaked at around 92 degrees on Tuesday. The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures to reach 91 degrees today and 89 degrees on Thursday before cooling off to a high of 86 degrees on Friday and 81 degrees as the fair comes to a close on Saturday.
“Certainly, folks coming to the Delaware State Fair are familiar with pacing themselves, maybe coming out a little bit later,” said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager of the state fair. “We have air-conditioned buildings where guests can cool down inside.
“We’re looking for relief on Friday and Saturday, but we’ve gotten off to a great start. A lot of the food vendors are doing extremely well, and crowds are just happy to be out and about. It’s Kids’ Day here (on Tuesday) and kids are just having a good time out here at the fair.”
Multiple daily acts by performers like Roberto the Magnificent, Circus Hollywood, Disc-Connected K9’s, Prehistoric Dinosaur Adventures, Hollywood Racing Pigs and Vocal Trash serve as the backbone of the state fair’s entertainment offerings.
They all seem to have one mantra when it comes to performing multiple shows throughout the day — never let them see you sweat.
“We live in Florida, so we’re used to this kind of weather,” said Lawrence Frederick, who performs with his dogs in Disc-Connected K9’s. “Each dog only plays one show a day. We have different dogs in each show. It’s hard on the humans, but the dogs are fine, they don’t care.”
Mr. Frederick, a Frisbee Dog Hall of Fame member, said it’s the smiles that he sees on children and their families’ faces that makes it all worthwhile, even after painfully twisting his knee in a Tuesday morning performance.
“That’s the whole reason why we do this, is it’s fun for the dogs and we have people clapping and cheering and laughing and crying at the dogs’ stories and what they can do,” he said. “I tell everybody this, when it’s no longer fun, you’ve got to let me know and I’ll find something else to do.”
Meanwhile, FFA members were plenty busy in the barns on the steamy Tuesday, keeping their animals cooled off during the heat of the afternoon.
Jacey Wiley, from Middletown and a member of the Appoquinimink FFA, was bathing her cow Tongo, who seemed to enjoy the respite from the searing heat.
“It’s been cooler this past week but (Tuesday) really started the heat wave that’s coming,” she said. “With heat like this, we have to really give our cows baths about three times a day at least to keep them cool.
“Last year was really hot and I’ve been here for four years, so you kind of expect it.”
Dino Constantino, owner of Grecian Delights, said the heat can be brutal on him and his employees as they stand over a grill in the heat of the afternoon.
“You have no idea,” said Mr. Constantino. “This is very hot here and especially (Tuesday), to be on the grill, is unbelievable work. It’s very difficult, but we have to work. As you know, we have not done any work for the last almost two years, so we just have to take the heat.”
He added that his wife has been forced to work on the grill in the heat for the first time, cooking the shish kebabs because of the lack of people willing to work.
“More than anything else, this year, every one of us (vendors) are shorthanded,” he said. “Nobody wants to work — nobody. We have offered more money, we have asked people, but they don’t want to work.”
The crowds milling about near the midway seemed to be well-prepared for the onslaught of the heat.
“It’s the Delaware State Fair so people should expect two things — hot weather and probably a thunderstorm,” said Lacey Castelle, an annual attendee of the fair. “You just have to use your brain and know not to stay out in the sun too long, take some inside shade breaks and just enjoy yourself.”
Jill Tatman, a retired nurse from Milford who was staffing the First Aid and Nursing Station at the right corner of the M&T Bank Grandstand, had some tips for visitors to the state fair today and Thursday.
“Wear light clothing, keep yourself hydrated — you can’t drink enough,” she said. “The biggest thing, too, is to seek shade when you can and cool off and another big thing is sunscreen, especially on days like (Tuesday) because you will get burnt.
“Fairgoers should also wear something like a straw-brim hat to keep the sun off your face and don’t overexert themselves. They’re calling for really hot days the rest of this week, so everybody needs to be prepared.”