By Travis Mounts
The 75th edition of the Sedgwick County Fair is here, and events and activities will run through Saturday night in Cheney.
The first Sedgwick County Fair was held in October 1940. Now, we know what you’re thinking – there are more than 75 years between 1940 and 2019.
That’s true, but World War II led to cancellation of many events across this great nation. That includes a four-year gap for the Sedgwick County Fair, starting in 1940.
Sedgwick County Fair Association Bret Albers said reaching this anniversary is a celebration of everyone who has contributed to the Fair since it began.
“It shows a huge amount of support. It’s all volunteers. We don’t have paid staff,” he said. “We’ve really come a long way. It shows the pride of these people.”
Albers was asked what the folks from 1940 might think of today’s Fair.
“They’d probably recognize a third of it. Agriculture is still a big part of the Fair, as is the parade,” he said.
Most years bring some kind of change to the Fair, even if it’s minor.
There is one big change this year, and it should be a popular one. The demolition derby, already a popular Saturday night event, will grow to two smashing nights this year and will be one of the biggest and best derbies in the entire state this year.
On Friday, there will be a Figure 8 race as well as the weld-class of cars.
On Saturday, the bolt-and-chain competition will be held, and that’s the one that has been most popular.
For those who aren’t familiar with these events, a Figure 8 race is just what it sounds like – drivers on a track shaped like the number 8, with potential crashes in the center of the track. Drivers can try to avoid or create collisions, depending on their strategy.
The weld class features bigger, stronger cars. They are reinforced, and deliver a wallop. Because they are designed to be stronger, they can withstand bigger hits. So the crashes are hard, but the cars last longer – maybe five or six races.
“There’s a lot more time and money. The cars show less damage but have bigger hits,” said Shane McLaughlin, who is helping Troy Swonger again run the event. McLaughlin also is a demo derby driver.
Another change is that Fair organizers have approved a beer garden, which will be located on the south edge of the Open Air Arena. It’s a new feature that has been under discussion for some time. It will operate on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
“With the entertainment going on, we thought it would be a good spot,” said Albers.
Two new events are late additions to the schedule, and both will take place on the ball diamond. On Friday, there will be a home run derby at 8:30 p.m. You bring your own pitcher, and the Fair will provide the balls. For a $5 entry fee, you will get 10 pitches. The winner walks away with $100.
There will be a sandlot whiffle ball pick-up game for kids ages 6 and up at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Just bring your mitt to the ball diamond.
As for things that remain the same, lots of favorites are back.
Sedgwick County Fair’s Got Talent has become one of the most popular events at the Fair. The first round is on Thursday, and the finals will be Saturday. Each night’s People’s Choice winner takes home $50. The overall winner will take home $500 in cash and prizes, second place will get $400, third $300, and fourth $200. The contest starts at 7 p.m. Thursday and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
There will be plenty of live music. Twist of Fate was scheduled to play at 8 p.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, after Fair’s Got Talent, the Adam Capps Band will play. Friday is Red Dirt Music Night, with Kyle Killgore performing at 7 p.m., and the Jason Boyd Band playing at 9 p.m. Saturday’s live entertainment features Lucky People, who will play at 9 p.m. after the Fair’s Got Talent Finals.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Sedgwick County Fair without the Pride of Texas Carnival. Hours are 6-11 p.m. each night of the Fair. All-you-can-ride bracelets will be for sale for $25 per person. There are some limitations; check at the carnival for all the details.
There are plenty of 4-H livestock competitions throughout the Fair. Other 4-H highlights include the round robin showmanship at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the annual livestock auction at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Exhibits, including arts and crafts, photography, cooking, rocketry, rabbits and poultry, and larger farm animals are open throughout the Fair.
Open class exhibits can be found in the northwest corner of the Fairgrounds, and include arts and crafts, photography, canning, vegetables, flowers, baking, and domestic arts.
You can read much more about the Sedgwick County Fair Guide, which is posted online at www.tsnews.com.