If you hang around the Fort Bend County Fair for any time at all, chances are you’ll see new and old friends alike, kids with grins running from ear to ear and scents and sounds that are only found at a fairground.

History says this is the 83rd annual Fort Bend Fair, and there are activities and events for all ages.

There are enough highlights to go around, including the midway, the wild array of food booths and games, top entertainment and rodeos, as well as the youth livestock auction on Thursday.

Watching the relief, anxiety and pure joy of the youngsters who have spent so many hours working with their animals and feeding, grooming and making them show ready is heart-warming.

Enough cannot be said about the volunteers who donate time (many take vacation) and expertise to make this annual community event such an adventure and success.

It doesn’t seem possible that 40 years have elapsed since the late Lou Payton encouraged me to join the fair board and give him a hand.

I thought it was a grand gesture on Lou’s part, until I discovered he had an ulterior motive.

It turned out Lou was chairman of the parking committee, and he needed a deputy.

The parking committee is responsible for directing the thousands of cars in and out of the fairgrounds with as little hassle as possible.

Lining cars properly with safe distances between them is artistic, and Lou was the maestro.

He built a 30-foot tower just inside the fair’s main gates, and from his roost he could calculate where and when to start a new row. At times, he had to shut entry to the fairgrounds because we were at capacity.

While Lou was directing, the other deputy, Jay Payton, and I were racing about in golf carts maneuvering traffic and keeping our teenage parking army of youngsters on their toes.

Lou never let me forget one incident which I’d like to erase from my memory.

I was out at the side entry to the grounds by the sewer plant, and it was pitch dark with only a big flashlight for company.

I was as far from the front gate as you could get when a car full of guys in a “low rider” vehicle approached my back entry at a high rate of speed.

I signaled for them to slow it down, but the driver hit the gas and roared at me like a charging bull.

The car missed my legs by mere inches.

I reacted by giving that heavy flashlight my best tennis forehand and smashed his left rear taillight.

The sound of glass exploding was deafening.

Immediately I thought — what have I just done? Out in the boonies with only a flashlight and a car full of gorillas on my hands.

They slowed to a near stop and I froze. Death at the back parking lot could be the next day’s headline.

Best I can figure, they decided the guy with the flashlight was crazy and probably dangerous. One guy taking on a car? In my mind they must have thought I had hand grenades and a bazooka.

They sped off, and I exhaled after holding my breath for several minutes.

When I got back to the front, Lou thought that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, and for years he told that story with more and more exaggeration each time.

That’s one time I was glad someone thought I was nuts. I was just glad to be glad.

That little mishap is a rare exception to the rule at the fair.

Enjoy the activities and have a blast. It’s a safe and family fun environment.

Go forth and eat a funnel cake and a wad of cotton candy. And bid on those animals. You won’t regret it.

Reach BH at bhartman@hartmannews.com.

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