By Fred Woods
The Lee County Fair will be held Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 at the Lee County Fairgrounds off U.S. Hwy. 431 N, a quarter mile past Opelika High School. It is uncertain when the first Lee County Fair was held but this is the 70th one sponsored by the Opelika Exchange Club.
The first Exchange Club-sponsored fair was in 1946 on the grounds of the old Prisoner of War Camp off Ala. Hwy. 51 just south of town. The Exchange Club bought the present Lee County Fair Grounds in 1966 or 1967 and that area has hosted the fair ever since.
Local fairs date back to the middle ages and earlier. They have served as vehicles to celebrate nature’s bounty, homemaker skills, agricultural prowess and just relaxing and having fun after the summer’s crops have been gathered.
Yes, there are the usual carnival rides and games, the cotton candy, the funnel cakes and the corn dogs but the old Lee County Fair is still heavily oriented toward agriculture, reflecting the continued importance of agriculture in the local economy.
Sure, there have been some changes in the fair over the years. There is no more “hoochy-koochy” show, once a standard part of the entertainment. Old-timers will remember these; they were fairly modest by today’s standards. No one is real sure when the girly shows disappeared.
In recent years, meat goats, sheep and lambs have replaced the horse contests, reflecting the growing economic importance of sheep and goats in Lee County. Otherwise, the fair components are much the same as decades ago: Beef heifers and steers, showmanship, sewing, canning, baking, handicrafts, etc.
The fair truly has something for everyone. There’s a poster contest for Lee County students in the elementary and junior high age groups. This year’s theme is “Agriculture: Stewards of a Healthy Planet.”
Opening day, Tuesday, Sept. 27, is Kid’s Day and everyone gets in free from 4p.m. to 6p.m. There’s a kids cookie contest as well as a kid’s molded plastic building block contest. The prelims of the Miss Lee County Fair begin and the lamb show will be held. On Wednesday Miss Lee County Fair of 2016 will be crowned and the heifer and steer show will be held. The goat and sheep show comes on Thursday and the remaining two nights are just for fun and to look at all the exhibits you may have missed,
All this fun and culture are available at a most reasonable price. Fair admission is $3 for adults and $2 for young people under 12. Or come between 4 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday and get in free. You can buy an arm band for $20 and ride all the rides as much as you want. Can you beat this deal? Thanks, Opelika Exchange Club, for your 70 years of sponsorship!