Counting down the hours to the Mohave County Fair
Fried ice cream, animals, exhibits and live entertainment among offerings at 73rd annual Fair
On a windy Monday afternoon, just three days before the beginning of the 73rd annual Mohave County Fair, Fairgrounds Manager Tim Woods is himself like the wind. He is all over the place, racing in his golf cart to maintain full control over the vast area of Mohave County Fairgrounds, from the Martin Swanty Arena where rodeos are held, to the busy fairgrounds’ office where I wait for him impatiently. It’s my first fair ever.
“Mohave County Fairgrounds, this is Lindsay. How can I help you?”
The fairgrounds’ phone rings every minute and Lindsay offers the same response: “Presale tickets? I’m sorry, we are already sold out.”
Woods shows up at the door suddenly, drops an order (two cases of toilet paper and four cases of paper towels) and tells me to hop into his cart. I do it gladly; it is my first golf cart ride, too.
“Hold on, I drive a little fast,” Woods cautions, and he delivers on the promise while we start the grand tour from the “entries and exhibits division” to the big expo for local and traveling businesses.
“They sell everything, from soaps to air-conditioning services, things like, yeah. Just about anything you want,” Woods said.
But “everybody” selling “everything” is just a small part of the fair experience. There are entries and contests of every possible kind, from livestock through succulents, to hand-made toys like a Chanel doll wearing a hand-made Chanel dress. Not to mention all the food: Indian fried corn hot dog, homemade pastrami, hamburgers, hot dogs and gourmet grilled cheese. Cotton candy and candy apples. And then the carnival rides and the Mohave Beauty Pageant, pony rides, antique tractors, a petting zoo. Live music daily goes without saying.
“The fair industry is a billion dollar industry in Arizona,” Woods says. “When you win here, you qualify for the Arizona State Fair.”
Woods first attended Mohave County Fair in 2012 when he moved here. But he started showing animals at fairs when he was 6, back in Cameron, Texas, a small town of 600 people.
“I was doing rodeo and things like, yeah,” he said. “Just like my sister and my brother. The whole hometown competed against friends and relatives. It is a blast.”
'It’s all about the education of the kids'
Last year, Woods joined the Mohave County Fairgrounds Board of Directors. This year, he serves as fairgrounds’ manager. At the same time, he is running for Mohave County Supervisor in 2020 in District 1.
“It’s all about the education of the kids,” he said about the Fair. “About getting kids here to make memories and explain where food comes from. What it takes to make food and that you can feed yourself, too. With just a little work, a little application of skills. It teaches kids responsibility. They grow up to be good adults. If they care that much about the Fair project … How they raise their family will come from there as well.”
When we approach the gate where people “enter” competitions, Debbie Cleveland, Open Exhibits and Fairgrounds board member, tells us to freeze. Only when she establishes that I have no entry in any of the contests, she starts laughing and introduces us to her “culinary department.” Next to them “canned goods judges” are wrapping up, some of them looking pale from the amounts of everything pickled they had just consumed.
Children from all over the county participate in all sorts of contests and can enter free on opening day, Thursday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. until noon.
“People are crafty here,” Cleveland says. “Kids don’t have to go to college to make things.”
She demonstrates a gun case made by a 16-year-old as a school project. Then we move to the “robotics department” where one can learn how to build robots and motorcycles.
“I take the Fair book in my car and I deliver it to teachers just before school lets out,” Cleveland explains. “They have it the whole summer, and after they come back to school, they have three weeks for the project.”
This year the young children “hobby department” is dominated by dioramas.
“I was about to take them out of fair books, and look,” she says, pointing to a row of dioramas made by 5- to 11-year-olds.
But for Woods, it is all about animals – reptiles, rabbits, Guinea pigs, chickens, turkeys, cattle, sheep and goats.
“These kids, from 6-year-olds to high schoolers, raise the animals all by themselves,” Woods said. “They feed them, they doctor them. If a kid doesn’t have a room to raise a large animal like a pig or sheep or goat, I let them have a stall and raise it here.”
It is quite clear that Woods is passionate about all this, his eyes getting teary when he talks about what it means to him. The fact that the Fair attracts over 100 volunteers each year is proof that Woods is not the only one with strong feelings about the Fair.
Woods’s favorite treat is fried ice cream. Or a smile of a little kid, his face all smeared with food, running away from his mother. Seeing that makes him happy, because he remembers his mom chasing him around the Fair, too.
Admission to the Fair costs $10 for adults; $7 for veterans and first responders $7; and $5 for children ages 5-12. Children age 4 and under are admitted free.
Fair hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 through Saturday, Sept. 14, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.