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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show at your local county fair

STILLWATER, Okla. – The scent of smoked turkey legs and fried…anything really… fills the air as kids and adults alike scream and giggle like 4-year-olds at their first slumber party as they wildly spin around on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents and friends from school share laughs and spend way too much money trying pop balloons with darts or knock milk jugs off a barrel with a softball. A sore arm, a teddy bear and memories for the next year are the grand prize for their efforts.

It is fair season in Oklahoma. County fair boards across the state are busy planning the year’s activities. Most will feature carnival rides. The majority will have 4-H and FFA members showing pigs, cows, sheep and goats. There will games to play. Most will have a bevy of fried food options and vendors with the latest goods to sell.

While lots of fairs across the state have similarities, some counties put a unique spin on the annual tradition. For instance, Ottawa County kicks off its fair with a bang – or a crash, as the case may be – with a demolition derby.

“They take it pretty seriously,” said Kathy Enyart, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension 4-H and FCS educator in Ottawa County. “Typically, they don’t just participate in our event. They go around and participate in demolition derbies in other places.”

Most of the combatants choose to drive cars with souped-up safety features. There are a variety of categories for different types of vehicles, but the idea remains the same throughout.

“They just run into each other. It can last several hours. They just keep going until there is just one car running,” Enyart said, indicating how a winner is determined. “It brings out a huge crowd. People will show up in the same colored shirts to support their favorite drivers. It’s quite an event. We use it to kick off our fair.”

While cars will be crashing in northeast Oklahoma, some serious Olympic-style competitions will be taking place in the central part of the state. Payne County is home to events like cow chip throwing, greased pig racing, egg tossing, stick horse barrel racing and holey bucket water relays, which are all part of a popular event called the Barnyard Olympics.

“We haven’t finalized games for this year’s fair, but hay stacking, wheelbarrow relays and cow milking will be some of the highlights,” said Kelsey Lee, Payne County Barnyard Olympics co-chair. “This year some skills will be necessary, but a lot of it is just pure entertainment and fun.”

More than 100 Payne County youth, ranging from 5 to 19 years old participated in the event last year. Most have an agriculture background, but many others are just along for the ride.

“I really enjoy watching the youth of Payne County come together for a night of fun,” Lee said. “We have several teams that take Barnyard Olympics very seriously. Last year, there were teams that had matching t-shirts and friends that were on the sidelines with signs and chants to cheer them on.”

Not to be outdone is Noble County, which hosts the Farmhand Olympics during its county fair. Some events are tied to agriculture, like pumping water and roping hay bale cattle. However, there is a silly side to the competition, as well.

Participants have been known to roll watermelons across a line with their heads, quickly change into goofy costumes for a sack race, partner up to make a human wheelbarrow and find hard-boiled eggs by smashing them into their foreheads.

In the spirit of competition, the Noble County Fair also includes a community relay, where teams from Morrison, Frontier, Billings and Perry go head-to-head for county supremacy.

“We’ll have balloons, egg on a spoon, pie in the face, dressing up in funny costumes. It changes every year,” said Chad Webb, OSU Cooperative Extension agriculture educator in Noble County. “It’s competition between the kids, but it’s more a fun, relaxing deal to get things started. It’s always really fun.”

Side note, Noble County also will feature a bunny scramble, where little kids will have to try and wrangle bunnies. Sounds awesome.

Mixing children with animals is always a good idea. Just ask Pontotoc County Free Fair Director Shelley Scifres, who is excited to help pull together everything for the county fair’s centennial celebration.

“We have a goat fashion show. It’s really a costume contest, but it’s really fun,” Scifres said. “The kids can dress up, too, if they want. It’s pretty funny.”

Scifres struggled to hold back chuckles as she recalled some of her favorite fashion statements over the years. Some of the more popular and memorable costumes include matching child/goat ninja costumes, cheerleaders and a doctor/patient combination.

Whether it’s goats dressed up like ninjas, cars smashing into each other or people flinging cow pies, a county fair is sure to have something for everyone. Check with your local County Extension office for fair schedules and events.

You might just see something you’ve never seen before. And if not, just enjoy a fried peanut butter, jelly and bananas sandwich and try not to lose it on the Tilt-A-Whirl.



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Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
157 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078