Between last year’s county fair and today, locals of all ages baked, crafted and painted their way to one of Texas’ oldest county fairs – the Comal County Fair.
Lines began to form early Wednesday to ensure their laborious exhibit entries would be judged and presented.
One hour after the fairgrounds open to the public, the exhibit halls close and judging begins.
It’s not always about winning – it’s also about being proud of something and seeing it displayed.
“The kids’ faces when they come in, they’re looking at you and they’re so proud of what they’ve done,” said Ann Keeler, senior fair manager. “Even though they may not have won a trophy, just to see that ribbon on their float and see it on display means the world to them.”
Keeler helped manage the shoebox’s floating table, watching kindergarteners bring in colorful and creative entries designed for the occasion.
Each box was decorated with a unique theme – some depicting agriculture while others spent time picking up trash to turn into a work of art.
Creativity spilled over into the arts and crafts showroom, where framed paintings and photographs are on display.
Works are judged by artistic medium and age group, and the exhibition is expected to contain 250 paintings and photographs.
As adults submit, the exhibit tends to attract more entries from children, and these are some of the arts and photography exhibit chair’s favorite exhibits.
“A lot of (kids) are contributing themselves, and they can show up, so they can tell us they drew this or they took this picture,” Jennifer Thompson said. “Seeing (kids’) faces when they see their ribbon or their trophy – it makes it all (that much more special).”
Occupying the same building is the Woodworking and Craftsmanship Exhibition where attendees can view handmade decorative items, ceramics, woodworking or even LEGO masterpieces.
“It all fits together like a tapestry,” said Shawn Wimberly, co-chair of the fair for crafts and woodworking.
Like Thompson, Wimberly likes to see what the kids come up with each year.
Children play a crucial role in this family event, which has existed since 1894.
Everything from the baby barnyard to the antique exhibit celebrates Texas history and agriculture with the goal of passing on knowledge.
While the rodeo allows attendees to see farming in action, the small barnyard attracts hundreds of children throughout the fair to interact with the livestock and learn more about it.
“It brings out things about farm life and everyone else’s life that kids don’t normally see,” said Dennis Williams, one of the fair’s directors.
In the barnyard, children can get up close to animals such as lambs, calves and pigs, and also ask questions.
“It’s a wealth of knowledge that we try to impart to children,” Williams said.
One of the highlights of the breeding halls is the live cow milking on Thursday and Friday.
The education continues in the wildlife exhibit where mounts of cattle and exotic animals are displayed and judged.
“People want to know what kind of animals (they are), so there’s kind of an educational aspect to it,” said Darrel Schacht, director of the County Fair Association.
As the largest wildlife exhibit of any county fair in Texas, the exhibit is expected to accommodate over 150 mounts.
The county fair also brings a sense of nostalgia as attendees tour the antiques exhibit, which is filled with old toys, military uniforms and household items, said antiques chair Avia Dowden.
“I hope they have memories upon memories, and we hear that every year when the fair opens and people start showing up,” Dowden said. “People come in and say, ‘Oh look, I won a ribbon for Grandma’s sugar bowl’ or ‘Oh, that was my great-uncle’s uniform’… It’s a matter of pride and belonging to the community.”
The exhibit halls open to the public at 1 p.m. on Thursday, allowing attendees to view the entries, and are accessible until Monday, September 26 at noon.
The Comal County Fair and Rodeo kicked off Wednesday, September 21 and will run through Sunday, September 25. To view the county fair schedule, visit https://www.comalcountyfair.org/.