Behind-the-Scenes at the Elbert County Fair

Beyond the hustle and bustle of the Elbert County Fair are staff and volunteers dedicated to planning and executing the best event possible.

In this interview, we’ll go behind the scenes with Tammi Schneider, President of the Elbert County Fair Board, to talk about the hard work behind the scenes to provide the County with this annual event. As a 3rd generation Elbert County 4-Her, she has a long history with the Elbert County Fair and the 4-H program.

Her grandfather, Walter Maul, was one of the first leaders and founders of the Kiowa Community 4-H. He and her great grandfather, Otto Maul, started the local livestock judging program and hosted the Eastern Slope Contest at their ranch East of Kiowa. Her mother has been a 4-H leader for almost 40 years and still volunteers through the club and the County extension office. Tammi says, “My kids take part in the 4-H program and the Elbert County Fair is their favorite week of the year! It’s important for me to give back through the fair board. It’s a special group of people who work so hard to make sure the fair is a special week for everyone!”

The Elbert County Fair provides an opportunity for the community to come together to celebrate and learn about the rural way of life. It is the only annual countywide event and has been going on for 86 years now. “Just like anything, the fair is changing and evolving,” Tammi says. “The old traditions are blending well with the fair board’s new ideas.”

Popular events include livestock shows, the market sale and the 4-H project showcases, but the Fair Board has also brought in rodeos, mutton busting, fun activities for the kids and a trade show where the local community can show off their businesses and wares. “People love coming out for events they remember as kids,” she says, “but hopefully the community also finds something new each year.”

Although the Fair Board is skilled at stretching their resources wisely, lack of funds and decaying grounds continue to be a challenge. She says, “We are grateful for the support of the County and work closely with Elbert County staff, but there are challenges to growing the fair and the numbers of participants without ideal facilities.” The Fair Board is researching other County facilities and looking at how to generate income for the County year-round, in addition to hosting the Elbert County Fair the first week in August. They plan to use grants and funds available for the improvements.

From making and enforcing rules to organizing and choosing the entertainment and fair schedule, the Board is involved with every aspect of the fair. Unlike an advisory board or commission, the Fair Board is on the ground with sub-committees and volunteers that work all year long to bring the event together.
“There are a lot of rewarding moments, but what I love most are the people that return every year and bring their kids or their grandkids,” Tammi says. “They appreciate a fun, hands-on experience that costs them nothing.”

The board is proud they found a way, through generous sponsors and a County partnership, to keep the fair completely free, including free parking. Except for a Saturday night event in the Bucking Futurity and entry fees to take part in things like the rodeo, mutton busting and the horseshoe tournament, you can bring your entire family and attendance won’t cost you a dime. Unlike other counties where you pay to park and pay a gate fee, Elbert County remains the best value in county fairs!

Over the years, the fair has evolved and changed along with the County demographics. For example, small animal projects like poultry are growing while numbers in the beef show have declined. Projects and activities kids are interested in have shifted to technology-based. People are looking for entertainment. Tammi says, “Our goals are still to educate and showcase the rural lifestyle. We are hands on. That people can get up close and touch an animal and learn where their food comes from is important.” The Board is now using social media and other technology to showcase the fair and highlight the amazing things the County offers.

Tammi wants everyone to know: “We are an open-minded Board who is always happy to take comments and suggestions on how we can improve, grow and meet the needs of the County. We are interested in what the community thinks and appreciate feedback.” They are already working on 2020, so now is the time to let them know how to improve. She also wants to thank the dozens of volunteers, the Fair Board, the County staff, and the extension for the hours they pour into each project. Although it’s hard work, she finds it rewarding. Mark your calendar now for the 2020 fair and plan on joining the fun July 28 through August 2. If you’ve never been to the fair, or it’s been a while, find a day to come out and explore.