Fayette County Fair brings 'sense of normalcy' back to area recovering from flood

Those waters won't stop Fayette County's annual county fair. They want to give people something else to think about, even if it's just for a moment.

Fayette County is still recovering from flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey, but there was no stopping the Fayette County Fair. 

Fair officials said they want to give people something else to think about, even if it's just for a moment, and help everyone they can.

While people in town said it isn't necessarily a time to celebrate, it is a step towards normalcy.

From brisket to corn dogs, quilts to home made jam and the coveted blue ribbon - the common sights are back at the annual fair in La Grange.

"It's just a place to gather, and a lot of older people love coming here and seeing what the little kids can do, and all the activities," said 2017 Fair Queen Connor Menefee.

But the 90th year of the fair almost didn't happen after the worst flooding the area has seen in 100 years.

Lee Fritsch, President of the fair, said it was a tough decision whether to cancel or continue as planned.

"It's been a lot of meetings - meeting with the community leaders, the mayor, the city council people, the fair board members, members of the community - trying to find out what we need to do to help out the community after this devastating event," Fritsch explained. "We wanted to go ahead and have it to give the people in town who have been devastated by this flooding event, that have been cleaning out their homes, their business every day a little something to look forward to, to get their minds off of the destruction that has occurred in this community."

He said they've had to move a few events because of flood damage or mud and were forced to cancel the carnival portion of the fair after the equipment couldn't make it to town.

"We had to be very flexible this year," said Fritsch.

Fritsch said they're giving everyone back the money they spent on carnival tickets, but said many people are choosing to donate that to flood victims.

"We're trying to do all we can to help them out," said Fritsch.

According to Fritsch, they also moved the heifer sale to next weekend, allowing people to be able to get to town for the sale.

"We thought with the flooding and the wet pastures, we may not get the buyers if we did it this week, so we moved it back one week," said Fritsch.

They also canceled the parade that was scheduled to go through downtown Saturday morning, saying they don't want to be in the way of any cleanup efforts.

But the biggest focal point for organizers is that all the proceeds this year will now go to a recovery fund for La Grange flood victims.

"This is a way we thought we could maybe use our resources to generate revenue to give back to that group," said Fritsch. "The more people that show up, the more money we can give back to help out the victims of the flood."

RELATED: Fayette County Fair proceeds to benefit Hurricane Harvey victims

For Fritsch, who was born and raised in the area and has lived there his whole life, it's been a tough week.

"It's just been feeling sorry for our friends and neighbors that have lost their homes and businesses," said Fritsch.

Anita Sell and her family drove five hours to La Grange to bring their Old Time Funnel Cake trailer.

"The people here are the most giving, they're the most friendliest, it's just an awesome place to come to," said Sell.

She's glad the fair's portions of their profits will go to help those in need.

"To me, it's important because the people here are needing support," said Sell. "What they make from us, they're putting towards the flood victims, and I think that's an awesome thing for the city."

People are chipping in other ways, too. Menefee and her fellow queen contestants donated clothes to victims.

"We always come together, no matter what situation, we help each other - no matter what," said Menefee.

And it's those people that keep Lawrence Batten and his BBQ trailer coming back to the fair each year.

"Just a lot of nice people down in this area," said Batten. "I'm glad they didn't cancel it completely out."

He has flooding near his home in Huntsville, but still wanted to be in La Grange for the fair.

"Just everybody you talk to is talking about the flood, and about the damage and stuff like that, that's pretty well on everybody's mind, but you know the fair's got to go on," said Batten. "I think everybody was affected by it really, I mean the lower half of Texas -if you don't know - it was bad."

For many, it's still difficult to express the emotions the week of flooding brought.

"I can't find the words for it, it's horrible," said Menefee. "It's still like so hard losing all of that and I just love seeing people come together and help other people that they don't even know."

"It's just a terrible deal, hard to actually explain," said Batten.

Batten, like many others, is glad they didn't cancel the fair. 

"I think it's going to give them something to go out and do, instead of having to think about, 'okay, my house is flooded' or 'my neighbor's house is flooded' and get them out and about," said Sell.

"Come on out, enjoy yourself and have a good time and let's try to forget about all the troubles that we have," said Batten.

Even if that's only for a moment.

"Next year can only get better," said Fritsch.

The concerts will still go on as planned.

Friday night, the Texas Unlimited Band will play. Kevin Fowler will play on Saturday and Clay Walker will play on Sunday. 

You can buy tickets at the door.

Friday night they're $15 dollars, Saturday $25, and for Sunday, $35 dollars.

There is parking on site, as well as remote locations at La Grange High School and the downtown square with a shuttle to the fair grounds.

 

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