Take quick survey on how next year's fair can be even better:
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Another Edmonson County Fair has come and gone, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Edmonson County Lions Club, an organization in charge of the event since the early 60's. President Jimmie Duvall, who's been a member for over 40 years, said this year's event was one of the biggest and most successful and will greatly help the many local causes for which the Lions Club foot the bill each year.
"Our attendance was up from last year and that's always a good thing," said Duvall. "You know, it really doesn't matter what you do, you can't please everyone, so our goal is to provide a good family fair that everyone can afford, can enjoy, and allows us to continue helping people in Edmonson County."
The Lions Club not only provides eyeglasses for those in need, but also provides each member of the local Head Start program a new coat each winter, sponsors a yearly scholarship, and provides countless unnamed instances of one-time gifts to help a number of needs. Those needs range from someone down on their luck, an emergency medical need, academic needs, to things more community-minded like fire hydrants in needed areas. All causes stay inside Edmonson County and must go before the Lions Club board to ensure the legitimacy of each need.
Duvall also gave several instances of how the Lions Club helps local needy children in a variety of ways including sponsoring the local backpack program, which provides meals to school children each weekend of the school year, as well as providing underprivileged students access to the fair on fair day.
The Lions Club currently has 49 members, many of which use their membership just to volunteer their labor and effort at the fair.
"There's no way to keep up with the man hours it takes to put on the fair," said Duvall. "Everything from keeping the grounds clean and mowed, to setting up each event, repairs and maintenance, it's all done by the Lions Club, and all volunteers. This is something we work on all year."
Duvall said while the local fair isn't perfect, he's proud of what it is, and how it helps Edmonson County.
"For the most part, you see the same group of people each year. We do our best to make this where a family of three or four can come to the fair and be able to pay for it. There's not many places you can go to and enjoy a family friendly event and a carnival for $10."
Duvall said the Lions Club also hears its share of complaints, coming from those who either don't like the prices, don't like the events, or don't like the carnival. He said while he understands not everyone will be happy, the club makes an honest effort to please the most people.
"I had a person come to me once and say 'let me tell you what you need to do to make the fair better,' but I stopped him. I told him that in all my years of being in the Lions Club I'd never seen him one single time on the fairgrounds. I asked him how could he tell me how to make it better if he'd never been there, and he said that he was basing on it just what he'd heard. Well, come out to the fair and see for yourself, then we'll talk."
The top event of the 2017 fair was the demolition derby, bringing thousands out to the popular event, which was said to have been one of the largest, if not the largest, in the state for this year. Close behind was the Mud Bog, followed by the Bullwhip Rodeo, the first in Edmonson County in nearly 30 years.
Events like the truck pull were forcibly phased out in 2015 because of the huge costs truck pull providers charged the Lions Club, but resulted in extremely low attendance.
While the pageants and baby show don't draw huge crowds, they're staples of the fair, even though the pageants are no longer held at the fairgrounds. Pageants are now open to other counties due to the low number of participants when the event was restricted to Edmonson County contestants only. While the winners moving on to state competition might be from another county, there is always a local winner in each category every year.
The ATV drag racing was this year's least popular event, drawing only a few dozen attendees.
Duvall also wanted to point out that the fair wouldn't have been possible without not only the countless volunteered hours by the club members, but also local emergency personnel, including Chalybeate and Brownsville Fire Departments, Edmonson EMS, the Rescue Squad, Sheriff Shane Doyle's Office, Brownsville Police, and others who provided security, aid, and help at each nightly event.
So what will make next year's fair better? Is it a music act? Karaoke or talent show? Someone diving from 100 feet into a damp washcloth? Who knows, but the Lions Club wants to hear from you.
"We're always looking for ways to improve the fair. We're willing to consider anything as long as it can be affordable and it's family-friendly. The fair's not about what I want or what this little group over here wants. It's about what will provide the most family entertainment for the most people that people can afford," Duvall said.
If you feel that your fair needs improvements, you could do several things, but complaining isn't one of them that will help very much. You could also join the Lions Club and lend a helping hand, but it's not likely that a large number of new members will be joining anytime soon. One of the easiest things you can do is answer a few survey questions that the fair board will study and research. Who knows, your input might make 2018 the year that will go down in the history books.
The Lions Club has asked us to allow you to give suggestions on how they can make it better. Please fill out the short form below. All we ask is that you only provide a first name.