BELTON — The Central Texas State Fair has been going strong for 26 years, and this past Labor Day weekend was no exception at the Bell County Expo Center.
Saturday night activities included professional bull riding, followed by Texas Red Dirt country music performed by The Cody Johnson Band and Kyle Parks. Comedy hypnotist Erick Kand also performed daytime shows throughout the weekend.
“We have over a hundred vendors (including) all of the shops, the fundraiser booths, the commercial booths, along with the food (vendors), outside and inside, enjoying the fair,” said Marketing Coordinator Ashley Bland.
Each year the fair grows and evolves.
“We bring in different artists, food booths and vendors every time,” she said. “We try to incorporate new things to where it changes and grows and still makes it a fun family event for people to come enjoy.”
Carnival rides included salt-and-pepper shakers, a Tilt-a-Whirl, a Ferris wheel, Spaceship 2000, and the Genesis levitator, among other thrillers. Kids visited the petting zoo which included goats, deer, a pig and a giant turtle. The enormous horned Watusi cow returned for photos, too.
Dave Hoffman manned the Top Gun flight simulator, a popular attraction in previous years, allowing fair-goers a chance to simulate flying a Star Wars craft, a Canyon Rider, a P-51 Mustang, or a F-16/F-18 fighter jet.
Army recruiters were also on hand. Interested young men and women could visit one of three Army simulators: a Kiowa helicopter, a 5,000-foot freefall and a convoy live fire simulator.
At the livestock show inside the Exhibition Building, students from Bell County and other parts of Texas paraded goats, lambs, heifers and steer, competing for banners and coveted belt buckles Saturday morning and afternoon.
Chris Barton of Jarrell showed his Charlois to win Grand Overall in the steer competition. Barton has been showing livestock for the past 11 years, since he was 6 years old.
Avery Turner, 9, felt good about the competition this year.
“Last year, I had won, and this is my second,” she said.
Also in her second year was Avery’s younger sister, Payton Turner, 6, who showed her mini-Hereford pig, Charlie. Judges praised Payton for her poise and showmanship.
Ryan Cummings and Tracy Tomascik judged heifers and steers at the livestock show. Tomascik has been a livestock judge since 2005.
“I grew up on a diversified farm over in Milam County,” Tomascik said. “We raised cattle and hogs over the years, so I was going to be in livestock production no matter what.”
Beyond fun, competitions, prizes and accolades, Tomascik spoke of the larger issue.
“The evaluation of livestock is critical for farmers to stay in business,” he said.