By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer
With a century of county fairs under its belt, the Roosevelt County Fair is planning a big centennial edition of the county tradition. The fair begins Wednesday with a special 100th-year anniversary party on Friday.
“We’ll be doing some history and facts of former fairs,” Michelle Lamb said. “Around the fairgrounds, specifically in the home arts building, we’re going to have more pictures and memorabilia placed in some booths so there’s just going to be a lot to see.”
Coordinators also hope guests will come forth with more information about the history of the fair with documented stories or old photos they may have. The information will be used in a history book which Jackie Clark, fair administrative secretary, is putting together.
For Clark, researching the history of the fair has been quite tedious at times because of the lack of information available. However, in a book about the history of Roosevelt County she found at the city library, Clark discovered information about the beginnings of the fair and the changes it’s been through.
The fair began with a couple fall displays in 1906 in Inez, Richland and Rogers communities. In 1908, the fair started giving out prizes for agricultural products, one prize being 12 ears of corn.
A picture taken in the 1920s shows a small vegetable exhibit set up outside City Park because, at that time, there were no fairgrounds. The fair didn’t have its own grounds until the 1930s. It was in the 1920s that carnival rides began appearing at the Roosevelt County Fair.
A fair board was put into place in 1927, after plans for the previous year’s fair fell through and it was canceled. The permanent organization was put into place in 1928.
After the fair was canceled during World War II in 1942, it resumed in 1946. At the fair that year, the main event was a steer roping competition between Lewis Cooper of Kenna and famous cowboy Bob Crosby. An estimated 10,000 people attended that year.
Joe Blair, a resident of Portales, says he has been attending the fairs nearly 75 years and still remembers how they used to be, “in the olden days.”
“Back before, farmers would maybe farm 40 or 50 acres and they’d raise watermelons, cantaloupes, green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes (to show at the fair),” Blair said. “They always had a big prize for the biggest watermelon, tomato, cantaloupe or whatever. I think like $5 or something like that.”
Blair remembers attending the fairs all those years ago as a little boy and how thrilling it used to be for him. It was part of tradition for him to see the livestock, check out the vegetables, grab a big stick of cotton candy and take a few turns on some of the carnival rides.
“All the farm kids and all the town kids they all went to the fair every night and they all had a big time,” he said.
The 100th-year celebration takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Pavilion located on the fairgrounds. Everyone is invited as free cake and ice cream will be provided to all guests. At that time, coordinators will present certificates of recognition to former board members, fair queens and superintendents.