Each year, countless hours are spent preparing for an event that has been happening in Pontotoc County for 100 years! Just think, this event could be one that your great-great grandparents attended!

The Pontotoc County Free Fair is for the benefit of all the citizens of the county. The object of the free fair is to promote agriculture, horticulture, livestock and poultry raising, manufacturing, arts, trades and every industry of the county.

Fair Board: There are nine elected members of the Pontotoc County Free Fair Board. There are three members elected from each county district, one from each district every year. Fair Board members do not get paid. In fact, they spend countless hours of their time each year planning and implementing the county fair. The county fair could not function without the leadership of this board. The board meets the first Tuesday of each month, and all the meetings are open to the public.

Finances: The county fair is part of county government as a budget line item in the county budget-making process. Each year the fair board presents an estimate of needs to the excise board. These funds allocated by the county pay for the support and maintenance of the fair, including the payment of premiums on all placing entries in the fair. It also helps pay for premium ribbons and badges, clerical help, security, superintendents and judges.

Other sources of income for the fair board: The carnival. Each year, the fair board signs a written contract with the Heart of America Shows to provide a clean, well-maintained carnival for the county fair. The proceeds the fair board receives from this carnival each year go to offset contest, entertainment and all other expenses for the next year’s fair. Without the income from the carnival each year, the Pontotoc County Free Fair would be very plain and uneventful. All citizens benefit from the carnival’s income by getting a high-quality experience when they attend the Pontotoc County Free Fair.

Why is the OSU Extension Office involved? It has been history for many years that the Extension office takes part in the county fair. Here in Pontotoc County, the Extension office staff takes care of entries, recruits volunteers to help with the fair and even assist-with many of the contests at the fair. The Pontotoc County OSU Extension staff can be found all over the fairgrounds during the fair, working to make your fair experience a great one.

Why do we have a fair director? The fair director position is funded through the selling of advertisement and vendor booth spaces at the fair. The fair director works with vendors, organizations and volunteers to organize the events and activities held at the fair. The fair director is accountable to the fair board and must have all events, contests and activities approved by the board before they happen at the fair.

Volunteers: The fair could not happen without the countless volunteers we have. The Pontotoc County Oklahoma Home and Community Education Clubs spend hours taking entries, displaying entries and carefully watching over the entries each year. 4-H volunteers work long hours in concession, organizing educational endeavors, and exhibit areas to benefit the youth of Pontotoc County. Volunteers from all areas of the livestock industry are busy in the barns with the horse shows, cattle shows, pig shows, goat shows and sheep shows. We have volunteers to help vendors set up, to help sweep, run concession stands, entertain, and welcome guests. The fair could not run without volunteers! If you would like to volunteer, contact me!

Special award money: For the past several years, volunteers have worked tirelessly to gather cash donations from area businesses to enhance payouts to the top exhibitors in the livestock area. Businesses donate thousands of dollars that are presented to the youth on Saturday night of the fair.

Several businesses generously donate money to finance the stage that can be seen from most all the grounds. This stage provides a covered location for the Youth Talent Show and free nightly concerts.

Who can enter? Anyone living in Pontotoc County! There is a number of open class exhibits that can be entered along with 4-H, FFA and youth divisions. It’s easy to enter, pick up a fair book at the Extension Office, fill out the tags and bring it to the convention center. 4-H entries will be taken on Tuesday, Aug. 30 from 3 – 7 p.m. and open class will be taken on Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 3 - 7 p.m.

It is my hope that by reading this article you have a better understanding of the Pontotoc County Free Fair and appreciate all the time and effort that go into the planning and implementation of the fair. The fair doesn’t just happen overnight. It is well thought out and planned months in advance.

If you see someone on the fair board, a county commissioner or a volunteer at the fair, a nice smile and “thank you” would be very well received. I think sometime we tend to take things for granted and forget to thank all those involved in making it happen.

I hope you will come out and enjoy the fair this year and participate as well! Your neighbors will be happy to see you!

If you would like more information, please contact the Pontotoc County OSU Extension Office at (580) 332-2153 or email me at janna.kelley@okstate.edu.

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