By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County’s four-day free fair was its largest ever, county officials reported Monday.
The 68th Annual Canadian County Free Fair was staged Aug. 24-27 at the Canadian County Expo & Event Center, 3001 Jensen Road East.
“Preliminary numbers are indicating about a 30 to 40 percent increase over last year,” Canadian County Fair Board Chairman Kelly Beck said. “To me, that’s huge. What a success.
“Everybody had an absolute great time out there. It was everything and more than we had hoped for.”
Beck described it as a “mini-state fair atmosphere” in central Canadian County, just south of Interstate 40 east of State Highway 81.
Canadian County Fair Board representatives base their attendance estimates on carnival ride sales.
“Our fair was beyond successful again,” District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart said. “It was just phenomenal.”
This marked the second year that the $20 million Canadian County Expo & Event Center hosted the fair activities.
“I’m beginning to wonder if we built it big enough,” Stewart added. “Parking was all the way out to the street. You had to drive around even to find a spot.”
Steps will be taken to improve parking next time, Canadian County’s fair board chair noted.
“We just didn’t anticipate that much of an increase,” Beck said.
Commissioner Stewart was there Saturday night when crowds were the largest.
“The carnival expanded like crazy,” he said. “It seemed to be way deeper (with) more rides.”
The carnival vendor reported Canadian County is in the “top five” among about 35 events he presents annually in a four-state region, according to Canadian County Free Fair Board Secretary Brad Tipton.
Besides the carnival turnout, participation was greater than ever in the county fair’s competitions, shows and vendor booths.
In fact, a couple food vendors sold out!
“We quadrupled the number of vendor booths and had four more food trucks than last year,” Tipton shared. “I have a waiting list of folks who want to come be a vendor next year.”
Exhibits were up too.
Of note, there were 75 entries in the poultry category – up from about 14 last year.
“We have people now who want to come out and be a part of this new facility,” Tipton said.
THE PEOPLE’S ‘FAIR EVENT’
A growing number of citizens are choosing to attend the Canadian County Fair because it’s free to enter and the facility is high-quality and accessible, Tipton surmised.
Fairgoers are often faced with the hassle of having to pay for admission and parking at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
“They’re going to move their ‘fair time’ up into August instead of September and come out to us instead of the state fair,” Tipton predicted. “With the product we’re producing out here, we’re going to compete with the state fair.
“This is going to be people’s annual fair event over here.”
Another Canadian County Fair favorite were pony rides inside the facility.
“Chester’s Party Barn was busy all day long,” Tipton said. “Just the looks on the kids’ faces riding the ponies and their parents standing around with their cameras taking video or walking beside them – that’s making memories.
“And that’s what this fair should be all about.”
The roads leading to the county fairgrounds – along sections of Jensen and Alfadale – were resurfaced in time for last week’s festivities.
That made a “180-degree difference” from a year ago, Commissioner Stewart opined.
The county’s fair facilities had a prominent American flag flying out in front, Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson noted.
“It really did fill up the grounds and it looked really nice,” the District 2 commissioner said. “There were a lot of activities.”
Chairman Beck was pleased to recognize Yukon’s Anna Belle Wiedemann as the annual “Outstanding Canadian County Citizen” award winner.
“What a wonderful lady; she’s a treasure in our county,” Beck said. “It was an honor for me to give that to her.”
Both Beck and Tipton are confident the Canadian County Fair will continue soaring to new heights at the expo center, which opened in July 2021.
“We’re off the launching pad and we’ve had ignition,” Tipton explained. “We’re off the ground and are fixin’ to go supersonic.”