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Fair springs forward after falling back

Football, pumpkins and fall foliage will give way to baseball, warm weather and flowers at this year’s South Texas State Fair.

The Young Men’s Business League decided in November 2008 to permanently scheduled the fair as an annual spring event instead of its usual October date. This year the fair will run beginning Thursday, March 26, and run through Sunday, April 5.

Fair Chairman Donnie Warner said by switching from the fall to the spring, they no longer have to compete with hurricane season.

“It’s very important we put on the fair. Another thing we don’t have to compete with is the King of Southeast Texas — Friday night high school football,” Warner said. “March weather is comparable with the weather pattern in October except in March, you have warmer afternoons and cooler nights. The temperature starts warming up in March.”

Another advantage for the YMBL by placing the fair in March is school has just begun for a few weeks in October and students can generate more entries in fair contests further along in the school year in March. For instance, photography students from West Brook High School have 98 entries this year and other students building trailers and farm equipment have more time to weld and place more entries.

Also, more students may have more livestock entries in the spring shows compared to October when they don’t have the entire year to raise them.

Warner said the South Texas State Fair will not have to compete with larger state fair in Dallas that’s scheduled at the same time, so vendors and events will not have to compete with the Dallas fair.

He gave as examples a Mercedes Benz show from the Rio Grande Valley that can now be scheduled for the spring fair. The Bill Hames Shows, which sets up and operates the midway carnival rides, usually stocks two units worth of rides when the fair was in the fall because of other commitments. In the spring, Bill Hames can stock four units of rides which means there will be more than 40 rides at this year’s fair, half of them have never been to Beaumont before. A roller coaster the size of the Ford Amphitheater will also be set up.

In the 66-year history of the fair, the event was canceled only twice. In September 2005, after Hurricane Rita and in September 2008 after Hurricane Ike.

Warner said with the purchase of a ticket on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, one may attend the fair and the YMBL Rodeo on those nights.

“We combined the fair and the rodeo, so you can see a PRCA rodeo for the price of an admission ticket,” he said.

In addition to the rides, rodeo and livestock shows, there will be more than 250 commercial exhibitors and vendors. There will also be arts and crafts, displays and entertainment.

And there will also be special days and offers at the fair such as Opening Night Wrist Band Night, Spring Break Day, Kid’s Day, Conn’s Senior Citizens Day, HEB $1 Night, KYKR FM 95.1 Ladies Night, Sonic 2-for-1 Buddy Night, Rodeo Night, Kid’s Day and Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Cantastic Sunday.

“If the weather holds up, we expect a record turnout. We received calls throughout the year in support of the move (from October to March). Our slogan this year is ‘It’s a Good Time to Have a Great Time at the Fair,’” Warner said.

dball@panews.com