MIAMI, Okla. — As in past years, the 100th offering of the Ottawa County Fair in Miami provides a little bit of everything.
The fair, which opened Sunday with the Thompson Square concert, includes indoor and outdoor exhibits, a variety of vendors and, of course, a carnival.
But a show on Saturday afternoon, the final day of the weeklong event, will be a bit different.
The show, organized by Shelby Hubbard, a graduate of Miami High School and former Miami FFA president, will pair up more than a dozen exhibitors with a guest showman for the first buddy show.
The guest showmen are special needs students from Ottawa County schools. Since July, Hubbard, now a freshman at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, has contacted area superintendents and special needs teachers to connect with potential showmen.
Between the calls and messages from social media queries, Hubbard has registered 12 showmen. With an initial goal of 10, she now hopes to have 15 pairs enter the ring about 6 p.m. Saturday.
Hubbard said she first learned of a buddy show after attending a livestock show in Stillwater. Ottawa County 4-H/FCS extension educator Kathy Enyart presented the idea to the county’s fair board for inclusion in this year’s show.
“That show had 40-plus exhibitors,” Hubbard said. “I wanted to start it here and get it going. I hope it will (grow) and become a regular thing.”
Hubbard said special need students have a “special place in her heart.”
“Some kids put down (special needs students),” Hubbard said. “I want to push the memo out there that these kids are our equal, and we need to support them.”
Each guest showman will earn a T-shirt similar to what student exhibitors wear. They will also receive a trophy and have a chance to take a photo in front of the official fair backdrop with their buddy and the animal they show. The showmen will also have a chance to work with the animals before entering the arena.
“The show won’t be competitive, but it’s something that means a lot and has a purpose,” Hubbard said. “I hope people will come out and support the students and cheer them on from the stands.”
Hubbard, who grew up showing cattle and sheep, said she’s glad for the chance to organize the buddy show.
“It’s my turn to give back to the fair board,” Hubbard said. “This is my last year to show. This has been part of my life.”
Decades of fun
As she added a ribbon to a jar of preserves on Monday, Sue Rendel reflected upon the years she’s participated in the Ottawa County Fair.
Rendel joined the Oklahoma Home & Community Education program in Ottawa County in 1968 at the urging of her mother-in-law.
She jokingly calls the OHCE program the “adult division of 4-H,” as the organization provides community service and educational opportunities to adults of all ages.
This is Rendel’s 50th fair. She’s spent some fairs as a 4-H parent, some as a member of the fair board and others as a volunteer.
“I just like to connect with the community,” Rendel said with a grin. “This is a fun way to volunteer.”
This year, Rendel helped compile a chronological history of the fair. Snippets of what she learned will be shared by announcers throughout the week.
One thing Rendel knows for certain — it always rains at the fair. Another thing is that — thanks to the original organizers, she said — fair activities are always free.
For the students
As he worked to prepare the show arena on Monday, Jeff Reynolds, Ottawa County Fair Board president, said he was ready to see students fill the livestock barns.
“I’m just a kid person,” Reynolds said. “It’s why I’m on the fair board. I grew up showing dairy cattle and pigs. I’m a kid kind of guy. I love being around them.”
The show, up in some areas and down in others, is expected to feature 69 head of cattle, 92 goats, 109 pigs, 41 sheep, 137 chickens and 40 rabbits.
Reynolds said Friday and Saturday are his two favorite days of the week.
Friday features the premium sale — an event designed to allow students who win special recognition during the regular shows a chance to earn some additional prize money during a live auction.
Friday’s activities include a meal for sale participants and exhibitors at 5 p.m., an awards presentation at 6 p.m. and the sale at 6:30 p.m. Up to 67 exhibitors, representing the market beef, hogs, sheep and goats, can take part in the premium sale.
The evening also includes a pre- and post-sale concert by Western Justice, a visit by Oklahoma State University's Pistol Pete, an antique tractor show, a free watermelon feed and a post-sale cornhole fundraising contest for the Wyandotte Ag Boosters.
Saturday’s activities kick off with the dairy goat and dairy cattle shows at 9 and 10 a.m. Other activities include the youth livestock and fitting contests at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the under 8-years-old poultry and rabbit awards at 5:30 p.m., the bucket animal show and buddy show at 6 p.m., and the super showman contest at 7 p.m.
“There’s just a lot of hype and excitement for the fair,” said Harrell Post, fair board member. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”