Barrel racing and bale-throwing competitions might be foreign concepts for some Lawrence city-slickers, but everyone is welcome to join in when the 2013 Douglas County Fair opens July 26. Margaret Kalb, the fair's executive secretary, says the free event offers a down-home, good time to rural and urban Douglas County dwellers alike.
"We are getting to be so urbanized," Kalb said. "This is a way of promoting agriculture in the county with good, clean fun for everybody."
This year's theme, "sew it, grow it, show it," hints at some of the fun to be had during the annual festivities July 26 through August 3. Kalb says the Douglas County Fair Board chose the phrase to reflect the diversity of exhibits at the fair.
"We tried to incorporate all areas of 4-H and the fair," Kalb said. "We don't want people to think the fair is just all about crops and cattle."
"Sew it" refers to clothing and quilt making projects, which are among classes in the fine arts exhibit to be judged for ribbons. Photography and crafts are also included in this division. "Grow it" alludes to 4-H and open-class horticulture contests, which Kalb says includes "anything you can grow in your backyard garden" to crops and flowers. Entries will be publicly displayed July 31 through August 3.
"Show it" describes numerous animal-showing events scattered throughout the week. Horses, cows, goats, poultry, sheep and even llamas will be judged Monday through Friday, along with a pig weigh-in Wednesday morning.
Kalb, who herself was involved with 4-H as a child, says the exhibitions are a good way for those who are unfamiliar with farm life to become acquainted with the process.
"If people don't know a lot about raising different animals, they can come out and learn it here," Kalb said.
But it's not just farmers and livestock eligible to participate. A 4-H pet show has had a number of unique performers over the years.
"You do not have to be a kid out there in the country with a pig," Kalb said. "We've had everything from gerbils, hamsters, snakes and chinchillas."
Other contests, like the Turtle Race on August 3, are less conventional. One popular event, Barnyard Olympics, groups diverse competitors together to complete an obstacle course. Each team of four must consist of a 4-H member, an adult, one child under the age of 10 and a female.
The popular Demolition Derby will be held August 2, when drivers will crash and ram into each other until the last car running wins a $2,500 prize. There are three classes: hobo, full sized and compact cars. The first, Kalb says, is the most exciting.
"The hobo event is popular because those are the cars are destroyed," Kalb said. "Some derby drivers might fix up and take the same car to multiple demolitions, but hobo cars are on their last legs."
To partake in the real-life bumper cars event, participants supply their own cars, which must be fitted with certain safety regulations like sealing doors shut and removing all glass. Drivers must also wear their seatbelts. Tickets are $10.
If you are not the competitive type, free concerts will be available. Local bands Legacy, The Secrets, Sellout and Arnie Johnson and the Midnight Special will wrap up the final nights of the fair.
The carnival will also be open in the evenings July 31 through August 3, funnel cakes and all. Tickets and wristbands will be available for purchase to enjoy the rides.
Entrance is free and open to the public.