Despite rain, spirits run high at fair
Fair board president David Todd wasn't complaining about getting some rain.
It just didn't come at an opportune time late last week with the Leavenworth County Fair in full swing.
"We were getting extremely dry," Todd said. "But it all came at one time."
Attendance at the fair was good, Todd said, earlier in the week, but once the rains came Friday and Saturday, the crowds dwindled.
The two-night rodeo attracted spectators Thursday and the show went on Friday, but fans didn't fill the grandstand with rain falling Friday night.
Last Saturday's demolition derby, another major draw, was postponed because of the heavy rains. It has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. this Saturday.
Animals usually aren't released until the day after the fair, or last Sunday, but Todd said animals were released Saturday because of the weather.
Plenty of people still congregated throughout the fair, whether it was in areas such as exhibit buildings, concession stands, the carnival, or the livestock show arena.
Todd said the fair again was well-organized -- but officials couldn't control Mother Nature.
"Everything has gone off pretty well, except for the weather," Todd said.
Last Wednesday evening, spectators lined Fourth Street for the annual Leavenworth County Fair Parade.
Despite the high temperatures, plenty of spectators staked claim to spots along the route well before it started at 6:30 p.m.
As for the parade itself, organizer Bill Seymour said past parades have had more entries.
"It was a little smaller," Seymour said. "I think the heat had a lot to do with it."
Here are top winners:
1. Stranger Creek 4-H
2. Boling 4-H
3. Glenwood 4-H
Open Class Floats
1. First State Bank and Trust
2. Tonganoxie American Legion
3. Tonganoxie Red Hat Ladies
1. 2005 Weiner Dog Champ -- Moose
2. Three-man chopper bike group
1. Alex and Ezra, Holy Tucker
2. Justin Patrick
3. Forrest Knapp
1. John Shoemaker
2. James Wilson
3. Rick Benedict
1. Kevin Minton
2. Lynch Thomas
3. Kansas Miniature Horse Club
1. Draft Horse Team, Winchester.
Oldest Married Couple
Mr. and Mrs. Ed Harris, Tonganoxie
The couple married May 5, 1935
A gathering that started as a simple pre-parade meal has transformed into a parade route blowout.
Gene Samuels and his family, who live across from Tonganoxie Elementary School on Fourth Street, held a meal before the Leavenworth County Fair Parade with a neighboring family some 14 years ago.
"It started out with one other couple and their two kids," Samuels said.
Since then, the gathering has evolved into a much larger affair. These days, more than 125 guests stop by for food and then watch the parade.
"I never run completely out food or beverages, but have come awful close," Samuels said.
Guests are asked to bring a side dish. Samuels, meanwhile, fires up a smoker and prepares various meats -- and his famous chicken and cheese quesadillas.
To prepare for the festivities, Samuels takes off work on the day of the parade. Preparations start as early as 6 a.m., as Samuels starts cooking the various meats.
Most years, Samuels also stays home the day after the parade to "recuperate," but last Thursday was an exception.
Several meats are prepared for the shindig, including hamburgers, brats and sausages.
One year, Samuels smoked a turkey, while other menu items have included ribs and hot wings.
"It's just whatever we get in the mood to fiddle with," Samuels said.
A few years ago, Samuels started serving quesadillas that are prepared on the grill. He has a special rub that he puts on the chicken before putting it in the quesadillas.
Members of the Samuels camp have been known to provide food to parade participants as well.
Last Wednesday, Samuels' son, Hunter, took a plate of quesadillas to Bryan Kemp's youth softball team that won a summer league tournament last month. Samuels also has given food to local race drivers who have been in the parade. Samuels has worked on pit crews for local drivers who race at such venues as Lakeside Speedway and I-70 Speedway.
Churchill Downs it wasn't, but the Big Top was a hot spot Saturday at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
Instead of horses and the Kentucky Derby, plenty of spectators gathered around a wooden U-shaped "track" for this year's Leavenworth County Fair turtle races.
As children, parents and other turtle enthusiasts huddled around the wooden course, turtles came out of the gate. Although some turtles needed some coaxing from the starting line, some "fast" turtles emerged from several heats.
The winner of each heat advanced to a final race, which turtle owner Johanna Williams won. The event brought all sizes of turtles to the fair.
Like Johanna's turtle, Patience Davis' turtle also had a good day at the fair. Her box turtle, Lightning, lived up to its name. Lightning won his heat and advanced to the finals. Patience's grandfather, Butch Bollin of Leavenworth, said the family found Lightning in a pasture this summer.
Although Patience, a member of Leavenworth's Bell 4-H, had success with Lightning, she isn't sure whether she'll enter Lightning again next year or search for another turtle.
That, after all, is a major factor in turtle racing, said Debbie Miller of Leavenworth.
"It's a big deal," Miller said. "You hunt for your turtle and then you keep it somewhere all summer."
The race itself, though, isn't the same as it used to be, Miller said. Saturday, children situated near the race area would pick up turtles and turn them toward the finish line.
"You just didn't touch them," Miller said, referring to some previous years.
At the end of the "track," a red area was painted with an arrow pointing toward a small exit hole. In earlier years, Miller said a turtle didn't win the race until it went through the hole. Saturday, a turtle was ruled the winner when it crossed into the red area.
But as Miller also noted, "it takes a lot longer" waiting for a turtle to head through the finish hole.
Miller was on hand to watch two of her nieces' turtles compete, but it wasn't a big day at the races for those two tortoises.
"They both would get out of the box and that was it," Miller said with a laugh. "They didn't go anywhere."
Before paying to park at the fairgrounds, some drivers gave canned food and monetary donations to the Leavenworth County Junior Leaders who were standing near the fairgrounds entrance.
The proceeds went to the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop in Tonganoxie.
Parent Carol Bailey said roughly $230 was raised at the fairgrounds' front gate Thursday evening. Although she didn't know how many cans were collected, she said it compared to previous years' donations.
The junior leaders group is made up of 4-H members from across Leavenworth County.
Not everyone in Jacob Franssen's family will eat his famous trail mix muffins.
Some, he said, can't eat chocolate. That's not all bad for Jacob, who gladly gobbles down his share -- and more. He said he really likes the baked good.
Judges at the Leavenworth County Fair seemed to agree.
Jacob, who is a Happy Hollow 4-H member and an elementary student in the Pleasant Ridge school district, won a purple ribbon at this year's fair for his trail mix muffins. And, he claimed a blue ribbon with his maple pumpkin muffins.
But Jacob wasn't finished.
He also had ribbon-winning entries in other categories -- a blue and a red for his rabbit, a white and red for his roosters , a blue for artwork and a purple and red for two photos.
Jacob sketched his drawing with pencils, markers and crayons. He originally planned to submit a drawing of a spaceship, but switched gears.
"I was thinking about trying a spaceship, but all of them turned out kind of bad," Jacob said.
His photography, meanwhile, was of a rattlesnake and a possum.
The rattlesnake first was discovered under the deck of Jacob's house. His father, Jeff, shot the snake with a gun. Jacob later took a photo of the snake, its mouth wide-open. That photo won a purple ribbon, while the possum picture earned a red.
Jacob had a well-rounded group of entries at the fair. And, of course, he made sure to take in some rides at the carnival. But one entry seemed to be his favorite.
"I kind of like showing rabbits," Jacob said.
A rare tomato entered at the Leavenworth County Fair dwarfed other tomato entries.
Of course, this rare tomato, in actuality, was a hedge ball spray-painted red -- an effort to provide some vegetable humor at the fairgrounds.
Lisa Findeisen of Lansing said the "tomato" caused some second looks.
"You never know what you're going to see," Findeisen said with a chuckle. "I guess you can enter anything in 4-H."
Findeisen's daughter, Clarissa Garber, had a legitimate entry -- green beans -- which won a blue ribbon at the fair.
When asked how she raised the prize-winning beans, Clarissa thought briefly about an answer.
Her mother then jumped in, saying that Clarissa kept a garden, pulled weeds and watered it.
Clarissa then had a comment.
"Well of course," the youngster said. "He knew that."
Experience in the show arena has paid off for Sam Tellefson.
She has been showing cows at the Leavenworth County Fair the last 10 years. A member of Wranglers 4-H out of Basehor, Tellefson took home first, third and fourth-place ribbons at the fair.
"I've gotten more comfortable in the show ring," Tellefson said.
Each day of the fair, Tellefson said she spent about three hours grooming her cows. But, she said it was all part of the fair-week process.
"You just continue picking up after them every day to keep them clean," Tellefson.
Donna Bradley, mother of Jenna Bradley, was nearby, reading a book while keeping an eye on Jenna's entries. Like Tellefson, Bradley fared well at the fair, securing first and second-place ribbons.
Donna Bradley said preparation is time-consuming during fair week, but is an ongoing process that starts months in advance. From grooming to diet, cows require extensive care. Cows, Bradley said, can't weigh over a certain amount for the judging. In the spring, the prospective animals are weighed. They again have to "make weight" during the fair.
Bradley said the process at the fair can be stressful, not just for the humans, but for the animals as well.
"The cows get stressed out because they're not used to all of this," she said.
At one point, Bradley motioned to one of her daughter's cows, a steer named Viper.
"This is her baby," Donna said.
Jenna this week will start her senior year at Tonganoxie High School. The 17-year-old also is involved in livestock showing through Future Farmers of America, which Donna said is important.
"FFA teaches the kids so much," she said.
Several local youths put their shoes to the pedals Saturday at the fair.
The 10th Annual Kid's Pedal Tractor Pull attracted 131 entries from ages 3 to12. Organizer Joan Payne said it was the largest turnout for the event since its first started a decade ago at the urging of Linwood resident Tom Norman.
Here are the top finishers in each class:
Class A (ages 3 and 4)
1. Zach Thurston; 2. Rose Reilly; 3. Clayton Bryant.
Class B (ages 5 and 6)
1. Alexander Miller; 2. Brett George; 3. Martin Reilly.
Class C (ages 7 and 8)
1. Carl Hecht; 2. Justyn Leslie; 3. Tristan Speer.
Class D (ages 9 and 10)
1. Clifton Miller; 2. Ashten Langley; 3. Jacob Phillips.
Class E (ages 11 and 12)
1. Jake Schmalstieg; 2. Lucas Ahart; 3. Brent Preston.
Each winner received a trophy and every participant received a ribbon and special treats.