By Gary Wamsley
We spent the weekend in North Platte, Neb. The occasion was my annual family reunion. I considered not going because of all the pre-county fair activity. In the end, it seemed more important to see the family. I lost two cousins in the past year, and you never know if this might be the last time. This was the 53rd reunion, and attendance has been waning the past few years, but family ties are important.
I did have the opportunity to tour the old Fox Theater, now the community playhouse. I thought it would be much smaller than I remembered from my childhood, but I was wrong. That old theater seats 800 people. I learned that it was built as an opera house and originally seated 1,000 people. That is an amazing number for a town that probably had a population of less than 10,000 during the early part of the last century.
These days, when the opera seems to be elite entertainment, it is easy to forget that at one time it was immensely popular with everyone. The mining camps all had opera houses and the beautiful old opera house in Loveland, now the Odd Fellows lodge, attest to the popularity of that form of live stage production. I don’t recall reading much about what we call “plays” in those early years. I wonder when they came about. That seems like a topic for further investigation.
Although the county fairs do not officially get underway until this week, there has already been a full week of activity. It is too bad those events are not publicized more because they are great spectator events.
The 4-H fashion show, the dog and cats and nearly all the equine events take place before the official opening day. We couldn’t make it to all the programs and I missed the 4-H model rocket flying. I think that would have been interesting.
For some of these events the participants spend a lot of time waiting for their turn. At the dog agility program on Friday, the signing in began at 1:30 p.m., but the first year entrants did not compete until after 5 p.m. After all that time the dogs get restless and don’t always perform as expected. Two of our local girls had their dogs run out of the arena about half way through their turn. In both cases, they retrieved their dog and finished the course.
Both the Ranch-Way arena and the Budweiser Event Center were full of horses on Monday evening. The event center was the site of Musical Freestyle. It sounded like it might be a battle of bands. I arrived early for the barrel racing and decided to walk over and see what was happening. What I found was a really great and fun event. The kids performed a free style ride in time to music of their own choosing. The kids, and even some of the horses, were in elaborate costume. It was very colorful and fun for the riders and the audience.
There is plenty of activity yet to come, so for this week, I’ll see you at the fair.