Long live the great State Fair of Texas

My first trip to the State Fair of Texas was filled with high expectations, but by the end of the day I was in pain. I was fresh out of college, glowing with the prospect of finding a job in the city. I was vain enough to wear my very best Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, including brand new patent leather shoes with fashionable three-inch heels.

After five hours of walking miles and miles of concrete and climbing on big wheels that spin ‘round and ‘round on giant ball-bearings, I would have been more comfortable walking on my knees instead of those swollen and aching feet! Stupid is a word I hate to use when describing myself, but it certainly fits my choice of dress to take in the sights at the fair in 1950.

After that first trip to see the wonders, try out the rides, eat all I could, see all the shows, and marvel at the new cars (now plentiful after the war), a day at the fair became a yearly thing.

And, it eventually grew into week-long stays with our Holsteins, as they were paraded around the show ring by our son and daughter. Occasionally, Tom or I would help to show a dairy herd.

The cows really bonded my family with the fair because of the ribbons

and trophies we received. They brought honor and recognition to our breeding program, and to our united effort to build a productive and physically correct registered herd.

Our combined family effort began when Tommy was nine years old and he joined the Huckabay 4-H club. He was on fire from the first day — on fire to have the best animals to take to shows.

We bought three heifers from Dr. David Smokler, a Dallas veterinarian, who had a prize winning herd of Holsteins. Tommy’s first show was at Hico, and we all joined in to help him get ready. We bathed and brushed that little heifer until it is a wonder she had any hair left. Tommy placed second, and we displayed the ribbon proudly on her halter.

As soon as Barbara reached nine, she claimed her animals and our children began to build their own herds of registered Holsteins. We traveled to shows around the state, beginning with the Huckabay Dairy Show, Dublin, Hico, Clifton, Heart of Texas at Waco, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and the state Black and White Show, eventually winning Grand Champion at every one.

Finally we carried a herd to Madison, Wisconsin for the "world series of dairy shows," the World Dairy Expo.

Through those years there were numerous fairs and exhibitions, but I can say with certainty there are none anywhere to equal the great State Fair of Texas. The year that our Connie was declared Grand Champion and photographers crowded around to get a picture of this perfect cow in her prime, it was a time for celebration.

So many of my memories today are tied to the fair—the yearly trips with my classes on public school day, the shows in the music hall, seeing the lights of Dallas from the top of the world’s tallest ferris wheel, watching Texas beat up on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, the drive home with kids tired past sleep. But there is no better memory than our family being together and our cow being crowned the best in the show.

It was always a family thing and that makes it grand.

Joyce Whitis is a free-lance writer who makes contributions to the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. She has written Patchwork especially for the E-T for the past thirty years. She can be reached at joy@our-town.com