The 50th Annual Ray County Fair is in the books and what a wonderful event for the community, with dozens of youths involved with 4-H and Future Farmers of America, adults competing in events and the elderly seeing the same things they did as children being carried on as traditions by their children and grandchildren.
At the fair, youngsters honed their skills, learning about competition and about life in general after raising animals, and making arts and crafts to show inside the pole barn or inside of the air-conditioned Eagleton Center. Youngsters with one or many interests could find a way to get involved. Their many participation options ranged from raising rabbits to bulls, and from toiling with needle and thread to add delicate lace to a dress to counting down for rockets blasting off into the sky.
The youngsters also learned important socials skills – not just talking with family and friends, and meeting new people, with plenty of that going on – but learning how to communicate with adults. The judges for the various events did not aloofly hand out ribbons and walk away, they asked the participants about their projects and provided pointers about how to improve.
Adults also had plenty to do at the fair, with some being volunteers who helped prepare and clean up – often thankless jobs, but necessary and worthy of praise. Many adults served as chauffers/helpers, getting children to and from the fair, and in some cases helping youngsters get displays ready. Others enjoyed watching children and young adults show sheep, goats, swine and beef before an audience.
In some cases, adults faced off against each other in the arena, with a draft horse pull opening festivities July 12, motorcycles and trucks drag racing July 13 and demolition derby drivers smashing into each other in the arena before a cheering crowd for the final night of the fair Saturday.
A lot of seniors at the fair have gotten beyond the point of head-to-head competion, but not all, with Gary Buffington, 81, proving he still has game by driving a team in the horse pull. He took a tumble while doing so, but got back up, brushed himself off and made two more runs. Kenny Hoard, 83, a former demolition derby driver, decided he does not need to get behind the wheel these days. Having attended the Ray County Fair since the beginning, and driving in the derby on many occasions, these days he is satisfied to watch others carry on the tradition.
And that is what the Ray County Fair Assocation continued to do this year, as in previous years – honor and perpetuate tradition. Their volunteer efforts do not make Fair Association President Joel Richards or the board members famous, but they should take justified pride in knowing their work is valued for preserving the fair and the values of family, responsibility and community service.