by Emily Summars
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The smell of Indian tacos and corn dogs will soon be wafting through the air at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.
Complete with carnival rides and tractor pulls, the Cleveland County Free Fair is Sept. 5 to Sept. 8 with a horse show on Aug. 24 at 615 E. Robinson St.
Fair Board Secretary Andrea Earles said this is the first year the fair will run through Sunday.
“We thought, ‘everyone is here and the carnival remains set up so why not?’” Earles said.
With themed entertainment, like bluegrass and gospel, the Cleveland County Free Fair is exactly as it sounds: free fun.
“Friday morning really kicks it off,” said Earles, who normally works 16-hour days during the fair. “Then everything moves fast through the weekend.”
Earles stares at a dry erase board filled with dimensions, acronyms and plans for the fair like the one-day car show, food and free shows. She highlights some need-to-know information: Wristband night for carnival rides are Thursday and Friday night, allowing people to ride until the fair shuts down; the fair offers golf cart rides from parking spots for the elderly and disabled; and lastly, she emphasizes the fair is free fun for all ages, including small children.
“It’s just a weekend of fun,” Earles said. “Once upon a time the fair was more geared toward exhibitors. Now, it’s grown so much, we have a car show, free hay rides, public cupcake contests...events the fair never had.”
The craft fair is Board Member Carol Doner’s favorite event. She competes against her fellow Oklahoma Home Community and Education group members in several categories. Members of OHCE also work the Indian taco stand and concessions at the fair to raise scholarship money. Each year OHCE gives $1,500 to three high school seniors from the money raised during the fair.
Doner manages entries in the arts and craft building. This includes setup on Wednesday before the fair, organizing entries and ensuring all runs smoothly. Working 12-hour days, Doner said she sees everything from cakes to quilts.
“I’m partial to the arts and craft building, but I like the whole thing,” Doner said. “I was standing on my head waiting for the fair book to come out.”
The “fair book” is a semi-thick book detailing all entries allowed in the fair, categories available and the item specifications. Doner said she loves going through the exhibits to hoard ideas for next year.
“And, then there’s all the carnival rides,” Doner adds. “And on Saturday we have a cupcake contest that’s open to the public…” Doner continues to add all the events she loves at the fair, detailing each with the excitement like a kid in a candy store.
“If you go up to the State Fair, it’s not free and there’s a whole lot more people there,” Doner said. “The Cleveland County Free Fair gets bigger and bigger here every year. Even when we didn’t have a paved parking lot it was still fun. There will be all kinds of vendors inside and out.”
As Norman’s grown, Earles said the fair has adjusted to become more urbanized, too. With no building, the fair was held in a tent starting in 1946 until the community established a board to purchase 10 to 15 acres for the fairgrounds.
“A lot of people get to see animals they may have never seen before,” Earles said. “Poultry is becoming a big thing in Norman.”
For more information visit clevelandcountyfair.org or call 405-360-4721.
Horse Show sidebar
Andrea Earles said Norman has grown extensively, particularly since she started working the fair in 2004. As Norman’s population continues to grow, as does interest in the fair, the Cleveland County Fairgrounds just can’t pack in all the fun.
Since both livestock and horses can’t fit in the barn, the Horse Show is held on Aug. 24. The show starts at 9:30 a.m. Pre-entries to participate in the show are due by Aug. 16. The show promises both English and Western classes with free entry to all Cleveland County residents.
“This is part of the County Free Fair, but our facilities are not large enough to have the Fair and Horse Show at the same time, so we do it in advance,” Earles said.
So grab your boots and giddy-up down to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds for the Horse Show. It will be some horse jumping fun.