Ferris wheels lit up the sky as country music and the smell of funnel cakes filled the air.
The occasion was a 25-year-old tradition called the Central Texas State Fair held on the grounds of the Bell County Expo Center.
The event, sponsored by HEB, KCEN-TV and other local companies, came just in time for Labor Day weekend.
In addition to rides, booths and a rodeo, the biggest attractions for most attendees were the big-name country artists like Aaron Watson, Cody Johnson and Kyle Park.
People also enjoyed browsing the tents with various souvenirs and collectible items. The temporary tattoos were a hit as well. An estimated 30, 000 people were present.
The fair gave UMHB’s student population some much-needed entertainment. Senior Christian studies major Laura Phipps attended both Friday, Aug. 30, and Saturday, Aug. 31, and had a good time with her friends.
“I think it was a great way for students to spend Labor Day weekend,” she said. “I think it also was placed well timewise. It gave our new students a reason to stay on campus and enjoy the area during a long weekend and gave those who stayed something fun to do outside of school and work.”
What Phipps enjoyed most about the fair was the music. Not only did she listen, but she did some dancing too. She attended the Watson, Johnson and Park concerts.
“My favorite aspect of the fair was the music scene. Aaron, Cody, and Kyle are exceptional performers, and I’ve enjoyed seeing them in the past. I love music, especially Texas country, so it was fun to go listen and twostep.”
Phipps also said the festivities gave her an opportunity to de-stress after a hectic beginning to the semester.
“It was a fun way to end the first week of classes,” she said.
Like Phipps, junior nursing major Britni Marburger liked the live entertainment.
“I absolutely love country music. I also got to dance with some friends, which was awesome,” she said.
Marburger attended the same nights of the fair Phipps did. What struck her most was the sociable atmosphere.
“Seeing friends and families spending time together was definitely my favorite aspect of the fair,” she said.
Marburger believes the fair was a unifying force for people who would normally have left campus for the long break. It encouraged community.
“I do think it was a good way for UMHB students to spend Labor Day weekend, especially for those who didn’t go out of town. It allowed them to have a great evening with friends away from
school,” she said.
Junior economics major Donavan Catron attended the Park concert.
“It was really fun,” he said. “There were a lot of UMHB students there who got to mingle and listen to some great country music.”
Catron enjoyed the diverse atmosphere where people from all over Bell County and surrounding areas came together to mingle and enjoy themselves.
“It was good because you had your families and different groups of UMHB students you could hang out with.”
Before the fair, a team of hard-working planners at the Expo Center had to make the necessary preparations.
Keith Smith, fair manager of 11 years, said his team is constantly searching for good entertainment.
In reference to the concerts, he said, “We are always looking for great acts, listening to what people like to hear….”
Smith, who is passionate about his job, believes the event was a success and added, “I’ve always said we may not be the biggest fair, but we want to be the best fair we can be.”