By Conrad Dudderar
A professional rodeo and a new barrel racing contest will highlight Canadian County’s new-fangled county fair – presented in August at a brand-spanking-new venue.
The 67th Annual Canadian County Free Fair will be staged Monday, Aug. 23 through Saturday, Aug. 28 at the new Canadian County Expo & Event Center southeast of El Reno.
Canadian County’s $15.2 million multi-use fairgrounds complex nears completion on a 50-acre site at Jensen and Alfadale roads just south of Interstate 40. The fair board is firming up plans for this year’s fair, which will see some schedule changes from years past.
Canadian County has built a “great facility” to house this year’s six-day free fair – and many fairs to come, according to Fair Board Secretary Brad Tipton.
“You walk into that building, and a sense of pride comes over you,” Tipton said. “Not just for the fair board, but the whole citizenry of Canadian County.
“It’s a jaw-dropper when you walk into that facility.”
The rodeo stock contractor was headed to the expo center for a recent meeting with fair board officials and the El Reno Wranglers.
“He drove past it and said he didn’t know that was the fairgrounds,” Tipton related. “He looked over south of I-40 and thought it was a new milk barn that Braum’s had built.
“People have no clue how magnificent this new fairgrounds is – until they come out here. And everybody is welcome to come out to see it during our Canadian County Fair.”
Years in the future, Tipton will look back with pride when thinking about the major role he played in making the transition to Canadian County’s new fairgrounds’ site. He and facility director Nathan Smith will move into their new offices in June, with the first events planned in early July.
The first phase of the Canadian County Expo & Event Center project features a 19,000 square foot event center, 46,000 square foot indoor arena and 19,000 square foot open-air pavilion, along with around 15,000 square feet of office space.
Many of the county fair’s major events will be inside the Expo Center’s “huge” arena, Tipton noted.
WHAT’S ON TAP
The schedule for the 2021 Canadian County Fair is tentative as county fair officials work to finalize this year’s fair book in coming weeks.
Fair board members have had to make some schedule changes this time with all activities at Canadian County’s new Expo & Event Center.
“As best we know, this is what it’s looking like,” Tipton said after providing an overview of planned August events:
- All youth livestock competitions will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“That’s a big change that’s coming,” Tipton shared. “The sheep, beef, swine, and goats are a ‘show and go’. The animals come in at night, they show at 2 p.m., and we have a 4-H and FFA judging contest per species after the showmanship is over.
“Then they release and are gone, and the next species comes in the next day.”
- Farmhand Olympics follows the beef show Wednesday night, moving up one day. That clears the arena for poultry and rabbit shows Thursday night. A stick horse rodeo also is planned.
- Open, HCE (Home and Community Education) and 4-H exhibits will be accepted Monday morning and evening – instead of the traditional Wednesday and Thursday. Judging will be Tuesday.
“That’s a big change,” Tipton noted.
Flower, horticulture and pie show entries – which are perishable – will be accepted Thursday night and Friday morning, with judging Friday.
- Horse events start Friday.
Highlight will be an International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) rodeo Friday night presented by the El Reno Wranglers. Mutton busting starts at 7 p.m. for the kiddos followed by the big rodeo.
“We’re expecting a large crowd out there for that,” Tipton said. “An IPRA rodeo brings in a whole different caliber of riders and stock. And it’s a better-quality rodeo.”
The county fair’s traditional horse show starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and a barrel racing contest kicks off at 5 p.m.
“That’s a new event for our fair that we hope will attract some new folks to come to the fairgrounds,” Tipton said.
- Entertainment is planned Friday and Saturday nights.
For Friday night, fair officials will invite Canadian County high school musicians for a “battle of the bands.”
El Reno’s Hunter Thomas will be Saturday night’s featured performer on the plaza stage at the front entrance.
Family award night starts at 7 p.m. Saturday before Thomas takes the stage at 8 p.m. The Outstanding Canadian County Citizen Award and winning baking exhibitors will be announced.
- While the livestock shows end Wednesday night, Canadian County fairgoers will still be able to visit with animals Thursday through Saturday.
That’s because a kids’ zone is planned under the pavilion featuring small animals in a “kiddie’s barnyard” – along with large equipment like a fire engine, tractor and earth mover. Lingo Construction, which is overseeing the expo center construction project – will sponsor this area.
- The ever-popular Canadian County Fair carnival will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and 2-5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday.
While it’s officially a “free fair”, Tipton noted people are charged for tickets to the rodeo and carnival rides.
Meanwhile, plans call for a trap shooting contest at Oklahoma Trapshooting Association’s Shooting Park and a tractor drive competition at the new fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 21 – two days before the fair officially starts.