The Franklin County Fair Board worked overtime to make the 153rd fair July 18-22 the best one yet, one board official said.

Brandon Livingston, fair board president, said board members put a lot of thought into the fair events and making it a positive experience for the community.

“We have a lot of new things happening at the Franklin County Fair this year,” he said. “Anytime we have change, people get apprehensive. Get past the apprehension and come down and be a part of it. It is going to look and feel different. It has been a lot of work.”

Two of the major changes are replacing the traditional rodeo with a ranch rodeo on Thursday night and bringing in Ottawa native Travis Marvin, a country artist, for a concert on Friday night.

“Change is [necessary],” Livingston said. “We will see what works and make a few tweaks. We reached out to people like Jerry Hedrick [who is a 4-H veteran and rodeo announcer]. These folks have the enthusiasm and the experience. If I can build off their past experiences, we can learn from their lessons. It increases our chances for success. Not everybody is going to agree. We want people to get involved. If people are looking for something to sponsor or support, the 4-H and the fair, it is grassroots.”

Livingston said the idea behind making the fair fresh is to engage the public more.

“As we move forward, one of the objectives, is to put more and more activities for the public to get involved in,” he said. “We have a lot of new things. Change is always good.”

Other additions include the pedal pull on Saturday and an archery exhibition on Thursday afternoon.

“These are things you don’t typically see on the fairgrounds,” Livingston said. “Our county, we have had some of the national-qualifying shooters.”

Many of the tried-and-true events remain the same. The annual barbecue will be Thursday night. The carnival runs Thursday through Sunday evenings. The demolition derby is set for Saturday night in the arena.

Livingston said there will be an air conditioned tent for people to sit in and eat the barbecue.

RANCH RODEO

One of the biggest event changes was adding the ranch rodeo. Livingston said the traditional rodeo was fabulous and the fair had one of the best in the country.

“Times have changed,” he said. “Some of the focus and interest has changed. Ranch rodeo has evolved in the past 25 years. We want to pack the house.”

Hedrick, who started announcing rodeos in 1970, said ranch rodeos have taken the country by storm.

“It is the fastest growing western venue that I know of,” Hedrick said. “They have a world championship, They are not professional cowboys. Ranch rodeo is similar to what the first rodeos were.

“A lot of riding and roping...daily cowboy skills they use on the ranch all the time,” he said. “It is interesting how popular it is. There is a lot of people here that still relate to a western lifestyle.”

Hedrick said Kansas has the past two world champions in ranch rodeo. He said Franklin County’s rodeo is attracting those top cowboys and cowgirls.

“There are probably 15 world champion event winners that will be at this rodeo, plus two of the all-around world champions,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick said the event will be fun entertainment for the whole family.

“What I try to do as an announcer is help explain what is going on,” he said. “The rules and objectives and how it relates back to what they do on the ranch. The basic difference between this and what they do at the ranch is there is a clock involved. I try to engage the audience. The unpredictability of the ranch rodeo is what I like. Those cattle don’t read your credentials.”

PASSION FOR 4-H

Livingston said the reason behind the planning, refurbishing the facilities and putting together the fair is the love of 4-H.

“Seeing the development of a child,” Livingston said. “They are talented. I know the types of skills they have built and acquired [by being in 4-H]. Take the time to go through the exhibits and take a look at what some of these young people accomplished.”

Livingston said the public will see changes to the look of many of the facilities. He said the poultry and rabbit barn has been refurbished. The arena was repainted. There are new electrical outlets along with a lot of dirt work being done, he added.

“We are taking the old structures and refreshing them and improving on them,” Livingston said. “All the work we put in out here is volunteer time. There has been a lot of labor involved. The 4-H youth have been out here numerous times.”

Rebecca McFarland, Family and Consumer Sciences agent for The Frontier Extension District, said the new-look fairgrounds came about because of the long hours of the fair board and other volunteers.

“Our Franklin County Fair Board are the ones that are responsible for the grounds and making sure it looks the way it does,” she said. “They have been working really hard this year putting new paint on a lot of our buildings. Making the place look nice.”

McFarland said many others have their hands in making the fair a success.

“It takes a lot of people to put the fair on,” McFarland said. “Without everybody working together, we would not have a Franklin County Fair.

We are the longest running fair in the state of Kansas.”

McFarland said her office starts working on the behind the scenes items in the spring.

“We start looking at the fair book and making changes for the upcoming fair,” she said. “We ask volunteers to help out as superintendents at the various divisions. Coordinate all the awards for the 4-H Youth and Development section. There is a lot of work to be done before the fair actually rises to life.”

The office coordinates the entries, judging and awards of nearly 1,000 exhibits.

“4-H lends itself to a variety of projects for youth,” McFarland said. “Fair time really is the end of their 4-H year as far as their projects. They usually start in October when the new 4-H year starts and work on those projects throughout the year. Then bring it to the Franklin County Fair to be judged and exhibited for friends, family members and the public.”

She said the fair for many of the 4-H kids is the highlight of their year.

“It is really an exciting time for them,” McFarland said. “Most of them look forward to the fair every year. It is their time to showcase all the hard work that they have done throughout the 4-H year. A lot of our projects are judged conference style so the judge gets to ask them questions. You may not know how many times they practice with this particular [project] or the challenges they run into. There are a lot of life lessons they learn from being in 4-H and with 4-H exhibits and projects they take.”