‘Your’ show reaches 66th year

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, March 17, 2018

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Humble Beginnings

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS – An ad in the 1953 Messenger reminds citizens that the first youth show is upcoming. Wise County Messenger archive

Today the Wise County Youth Fair is a week-long affair with hundreds of contests that takes over the Wise County Fairgrounds every March, filling barn after barn with animals, crafts, food and kids.

It started out much smaller.

Racey Burden

In 1953, the Decatur Chamber of Commerce announced a one-day Youth Project Show to be held at the Decatur Baptist College athletic field. The event was open to 4-H and FFA boys, and was expected to last from just 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The show revolved around livestock and poultry, with no division for food, crafts or mechanics. The chamber received nearly 300 entries from 146 participants that first year.

“This is YOUR show,” wrote the Messenger on March 26, 1953. “If YOU get behind it and make it a success, it will become an annual event. So – come one, come all and bring your dairy, beef, sheep, rabbits and poultry and show them off.”

The event was deemed a success and continued the next year, this time open to girls. In 1956, the youth show moved to the fairgrounds.

The junior rodeo started in 1957.

The youth fair barn opened just in time to house dairy cattle for the 1958 show. Built for $6,550 dollars, a special public auction of livestock was held to pay for the barn.

The 25th annual Wise County Youth Fair in 1977 set a record for the highest-selling (at the time) grand champion steer. Tom Strader of Northwest FFA showed his 1,159-pound Angus, the subject of the great bidding war. Dub Johnston of Alvord paid $6,490 for the steer. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a $26,600 animal today.

The 50th anniversary of the youth fair in 2002 arrived on a cold wind, with temperatures in the 30s. That year Chase Johnson of Paradise won the big prize – his crossbred steer was named grand champion, the first time he’d taken home anything higher than reserve.

Ultimately, the concern from the 1953 Messenger that the youth fair wouldn’t continue without YOUR support was unfounded, as the show celebrated its 66th anniversary this year.

Grand Champion

GRAND CHAMPION – Tom Strader of Northwest shows his award-winning steer at the 1977 Youth Fair. Wise County Messenger archive

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