Another year is in the books, after the Osage County Free Fair concluded Saturday evening at the Osage County Fairgrounds in Pawhuska.
Organizer Macy Strom said the 2017 edition of the fair, “Discover the Prairie,” was successful and fun, but the crowd turnout was lower than expected.
“There were a lot of things going on this weekend that I think kept our visitor count lower,” Strom said. “There were some big football games and other events in neighboring counties that may have impacted that, so it was harder to get people out here.”
While the visitor turnout was a bit disappointing, those who did attend the fair were met with multiple events, exhibits and entertainment. The Osage County Free Fair opened Thursday for setup and judging, but really got into full swing on Friday.
The Ag Building was filled with all of the art, gardening, baking, crafting and photography entries for judging. A stage was set up on the west side of the building for entertainment. Vendors and exhibitors from all over the county set up for folks to try their goods and purchase one-of-a-kind jewelry.
On the lawn of the outdoor stage area, 10 inflatable adventures and rides specifically catering to children were set up, all free of charge.
At the Ben Johnson Arena on Saturday, crowds were able to enjoy the Midwest Ranch Association’s show and the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association Rodeo.
Strom said one of the favorite events this year was the chili and salsa contest, where David Thornburg was named “Chili King,” April Garrison was the top salsa maker and Kim Revard Sanchez made the best fruit salsa.
“The chili and salsa contest is always a favorite part of the fair because we have both the official judges taste the goods and then the public gets to go in and try it, too, all at no charge,” Strom said.
In the art section, Elaine Wilson of rural Bartlesville earned five blue ribbons for her entries and a Best of Show award for her painting of a blinged-out bison.
“Those works of art were truly amazing,” Strom said. “Elaine is very talented and we were happy to have her work show here at the Osage County Fair.”
Planning is already underway for next year’s Osage County Free Fair, Strom said.
“We are going to start meeting next week to talk about what went well for this year and what we can improve on,” she said. “Obviously, one area that we are going to look at is why the attendance was down this year, and so were the livestock entries. We had our fair at the same time as the Washington County Fair and there were so many other things going on this weekend. We may look at changing the dates for next year, but that’s all up for discussion.”
Strom said one of the processes the free fair board will already begin is planning on asking for volunteers early.
“We are all volunteers and this is a fair for all residents of Osage County,” she said. “We want people in the county to be involved in it and make it better every year. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of work, but it is worth it.”