County fairs feature rides, rodeo and fun

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published September 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 11, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Children enjoy the illusion of driving in this kiddie ride at the Saline County Fair. The Saline and Hot Spring county fairs ended Saturday night, the fairs in Garland and Clark counties are going on now, and the Grant County fair will open Tuesday in Sheridan.

There is never a lack of entertainment during a visit to a county fair.

The annual event includes carnival rides, fair food with corn dogs still reigning as the king of the deep fry, rodeos, exhibits and people, especially children.

On the closing night of the Saline County Fair in Benton, four youngsters, clutching their new bright plastic trumpets just obtained from a vendor, serenaded those walking the midway. Led by Kain Bogjas, 6, brothers Landen and Ayden Guevara, ages 2 and 4, joined their uncle Dawson Finley, 4, and all played a tune.

While their 30 seconds of practice were apparent in their playing, several people who passed by smiled at the improvised ensemble, and some applauded when the band finished.

Elsewhere on the midway, boys and girls climbed into kid-sized vehicles on one ride and enjoyed turning the steering wheels. Even the young man sitting in the back seat had his own wheel and horn.

When one boy raised his hands as he went down a large multicolored slide, his expression looked like it belonged in the dictionary to illustrate the word “joy.”

Those scenes are found any night in any county when a fair is open. This past week, the Saline County Fair played host to thousands of visitors in Benton, while in Malvern, it was another big year for the Hot Spring County Fair.

Kathy Ramsey, who coordinates the rodeo at the Hot Spring County Fair, said approximately 2,000 visitors attended the two-night rodeo.

“This was one of our most well-attended rodeos in years,” she said. “We did some advertising, and the weather was good.”

In addition, the fair held its own local version of American Idol, with a competition among eight singers.

“It went well, and I think the people really enjoyed it,” Ramsey said.

Christy Harris, a member of the Saline County Fair Association, said people came in for the rides.

“The man who handles the midway for us said he would not be surprised to have sold $100,000 in tickets this year,” she said. “If it had been cooler, we could have really packed them in.”

Dustin Parsons, another member of the fair association, said attendance grew every night.

The large attendance also helped community projects for the Benton Lions Club. The club rents a space of open lawn outside the fairgrounds in Benton. The members charge for parking spaces, and proceeds from the effort fund the club’s local and international programs to combat blindness and impaired vision.

“I have been doing this for 15 years,” said Richard Welch, who was wearing his yellow Lions Club vest and directing traffic. “I think the club has been working the fair since before that.”

The Garland County Fair opened Monday, and the Clark County Fair opened Wednesday.

There was no fair parade this year, said Peggy Barnett, chairwoman of the Garland County Fair’s publicity committee. Monday night was the traditional Fair Queen and Junior Fair Queen pageants.

A main attraction for the Garland County Fair is the annual Demolition Derby, held on Friday and Saturday nights.

“It is one of our main events — and fun to watch,” Barnett said.

She said many people purchase their tickets early, after the gates open at 5 p.m., and return to take their seats in time for the event.

“The arena is covered, and any rain does not affect the event,” she said. The arena holds as many as 10,000 spectators, and the derby can have a full house.

The Rockin’ U Round Up Club’s annual rodeo is the featured event in the Clark County Fair in Arkadelphia.

Daryl Ford, president of the club, said he expects 600 to 700 fairgoers to attend the rodeo every night.

“The weather is always the key,” Ford said. “As long has it doesn’t rain, people come to have a good time.”

The rodeo is in an open arena, unlike in Saline County where the event is covered.

“There will be bull riding, barrel races and the other rodeo events,” he said. “The biggest event is the mutton bustin’, when the kids get to ride the sheep. That brings in the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.”

The carnival at the fair in Arkadelphia opens at 6 each night.

The Grant County Fair opens Tuesday and goes through Saturday night in Sheridan. It will begin with a parade at 6 p.m. Tuesday around the courthouse square. The carnival opens at 6 each night, said Sherman Lites, who organizes the event.

“We see more people who come from out of town each year,” he said. “They always mention how safe the event is for the kids.”

Lites said between 5,000 to 6,000 attended the event last year.

“The fair’s rodeo is by Hammer Time Rodeo from Pearcy and includes many of the best rodeo contestants in the state,” he said. “The big event is the bull riding, and we have a famous rodeo clown known as Porkchop, who is very entertaining.”

While each fair offers something different, they all offer plenty of food and fun, and the excitement of children.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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