By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – Enthusiasm for working at the Central Texas State Fair starts early and keeps its momentum as the years go by, according to people running exhibits at the annual event, which ended Sunday.
"Scooby," who has operated a booth with fully automatic air rifles for 25 years, doesn't know of any worker who's been at the fair longer than he has. At his booth, people try to shoot the centers out of target cards to win stuffed animals. He said he doesn't say how many winners he gets, but he gets the biggest kick out of greeting the friends he makes year after year.
"The kids keep coming back and looking for me. Hey, Scooby!' And I've always got candy for them," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Scooby, whose real name is Olen Belt, said Central Texas is his last show of the year before he returns home to Galveston for the winter. He works wherever the fishing is good, and at home he lives right on the Gulf of Mexico.
"I go out and put my first line in the water and then make coffee," he said.
Affiliated with Reed Exposition Midway Carnival, Belt believes he has worked at the fair longer than anyone else. "There are a few out there who have been here maybe 10 years. But I don't think anybody's got me beat for coming back here."
Among the newest is Texas Longhorn for Hire, an enterprise of Tatum Trails owned by former high fashion model Diana Tatum of Hempstead, near Houston. She and Melissa Sullivan were working with two black-and-white longhorn steers named Hotshot and Gateway, who sported saddles for children to be photographed on.
"Lots and lots of pictures of Hotshot and Gateway are going to dads and moms in Iraq," Tatum said.
Hotshot and Gateway ply their trade at parties, picnics, and school and church events, among other activities. "We love to go where we can give talks about the longhorns and their history," Tatum said. "We do all the work, and they just look pretty. They get treats and get to stand on soft hay all day. You should see them at shows around Christmas, dressed up with poinsettias."
Gateway was on duty during a news media interview. Tatum said that he's about half the size of the 1,800-pound Hotshot, and the two animals kept "talking" to each other through vents in the trailer. Gateway seemed to keep admiring his reflection in the shiny steel siding.
"Our handlers are all women, all over 40," she said. "It just seems to work best with the animals that way."
Besides the annual livestock show, attractions included a petting zoo, a mechanical bull ride, a hypnotism demonstration, a juggler, a bicycle stunt team, a bull riding event, a rock climbing wall, arts and crafts shows and food vendors.
The annual fair concluded its four-day run on Sunday.
Fair officials counted more than 29,000 tickets sold Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They did not have a running tally for Sunday but said in the late afternoon that attendance had been brisk, with wrestling matches and a demolition derby still remaining on the evening schedule.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org