VERDE HERITAGE: VERDE VALLEY FAIR

"By Lorine Morris"

"The Verde Valley Fair production has undergone many changes and experienced much progress in the 9 years since the first, eager but disorganized effort was held [1964]."

"Three of the civic-minded local men who were with the fair from the beginning recalled with humor and affection, the problems they encountered and the times they had putting on the first few fairs. Remembering for a 'Verde Independent' reporter were: Buck Jones, president of the fair association; Chuck Mabery, president in the charter year; and Pete Minter, president in 1970."

"Mabery had been involved with the formation of the Yuma County Fair in that southwestern city, prior to coming to Cottonwood. He was consulted about the problems of 4-H clubs in the Verde Valley having to haul their livestock to the Yavapai County 4-H auction and livestock show held each year in Prescott. For the past few year leading up to 1965, the Future Farmers of America, principally the Mingus Union High School Chapter, had held its own show and sale in the Verde Valley but the 4-H clubs were not part of the shows. Mabery suggested that the interested civic people get organized and hold their own show that very spring. These businessmen, not knowing it was such a tremendous undertaking and sloughing off all opinions of critics who said it couldn't be done, set out to hold a fair mainly to enable the F.F.A. and 4-H members to show and sell their stock. They encouraged sidelines of exhibits but didn't know how many to prepare for or how many ribbons to order."

"The group, as yet not formally organized but working 'in committee' to get everything ready for the first fair, secured use of the Little League Park behind the old Town Hall on Main Street. The civic club building [Cottonwood Community Club House] was used for the exhibits. Tents were rented. Cement blocks were borrowed as were practically all other materials, and used to rope off an area for viewing the exhibits. Metal poles were placed on the baseball field and the show cattle were thus tied up."

"Prior to the event, Mabery said he and Ross Rhoton journeyed to Phoenix to select the ribbons and rosettes, not knowing how many entries there would be in the announced categories and not knowing if there would be any entries in some of the categories. As yet, the fair group had no money to pay for the ribbons or anything else. Completely self-supporting from that day to this, it may be the only fair in Arizona not subsidized by grants or public funds. That first year, the pair over-bought and said confidently, 'send us the bill.' Having stuck their necks out for purchases of ribbons and supplies, everyone had to work diligently to make enough to pay the costs of the first fair."

"Then manager of First National Bank at Cottonwood, Everett Brown, and Mabery operated a baseball throw booth for many hours. The high school shop class made the bottles and baseballs were bought at the variety store. Prices were 3 balls for 10 cents or 6 for a quarter. Brown and Mabery were kept busy retrieving balls and setting up the bottles. The next day, Mabery recalls, they were so sore they could barely get around. But they made some money for the fair group."

"In 1964, the F.F.A. conducted its sale with the auction and fat stock show. The 3 champion animals were purchased by Marcus J. Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Gary Campbell had the champion steer which weighed 790 pounds and sold for 50 cents per pound. Dennis Black had the champion sheep, weighing 95 pounds, and also went for 50 cents per pound. Mike Guinn had the champion swine weighing 20 1/2 pounds which also sold for 50 cents per pound."

"The first fair book as a mimeographed printing of many pages which were 'bound' with staples. The men walked around the table compiling the numbered sheets in correct order. None of them want to remember how many copies of that booklet were compiled and distributed all over the Verde Valley. The following year, they decided to compile a premium book and sell advertising. It was printed at 'The Verde Independent,' saving a lot of headaches for the fair group."

"For the second year, Rusty Verretto, who headed up an incorporated fair association which owned the fairgrounds, courtesy of a gift from Ersel Garrison, longtime resident and civic leader, suggested that the new, more active group take over the association. The fairgrounds at that time boasted an arena and a straight-away race track. So, a meeting of the 2 groups was held and a sign-over made. Members of the established commission, however, served with the new officers during the transition period."

"When the newly-formed fair association needed to borrow money, they could not secure a loan with property which had a reversion clause, so they went back to Mr. Garrison and told him the problem. He signed a clear title over to the Verde Valley Fair Association. The land, a generous gift, comprises 80 acres for the development of a fine fairground facility."

"The first weekend in May 1965, was the first recognized annual Verde Valley Fair, held at the fairgrounds. Tents were again set up for exhibits. There was a horse show which lasted most of Saturday afternoon."

"The big youth livestock sale had auctioneer Johnny Whisenant; Ken Chilton was sale chairman. Some 24 calves, plus 2 fat lambs went through the ring. Sale of calves averaged 41 cents per pound and for the 2 lambs, 72 1/2 cents. Grand champion calf was raised by John Blevins, of Camp Verde 4-H Club, and his animal sold for 50 cents per pound. Valerie Ryan won 1st place in the fat lamb division with 'Jose.' Winners in livestock posed for photographs with Mayor Don McDonald, Fair Chairman Chuck Mabery and other Fair Commissioners at the ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the first official fair at the fairgrounds."

"Ladies of the Cottonwood Civic Club held a food concession and donated all proceeds to the fair group."

"Pete Minter recalls that the home economics and hobbies were added in tents the next year."

"Before any buildings were erected on the site, with use of tents for exhibits, the fair members pulled security guard duty at night in teams of 2. The fellows remember that if their teammate wanted to sit in a chair all night and drink coffee, while keeping an eye out for intruders, it was an easy shift. But most drew partners who wanted to walk around the grounds all night. There were plenty of thermos bottles of coffee consumed."

"The second fair at the fairgrounds, but actually the third event, saw the erection of a livestock barn. Built in the spring [of 1966], it went down as did roofs of a number of town buildings the following winter [1967] when a record 39 inches of snow fell on the town. A lot of hearts sank because it was built by the hands of local men."

"But back they came that spring with renewed energy to rebuild. Also they added a pre-fabricated building in the spring of 1968."

"First National Bank had donated a stucco building 18 x 40 feet, which the fair association had moved to the fairgrounds at a cost of $1,200. The building had stood where the bank parking lot is located on Main Street. It is still used for exhibits."

"The V.F.W. Hall, on the fairgrounds, is used for food and other entries."

"Construction of buildings has been made possible, in part, with contributions of materials from business firms and volunteer help on the building work. This year [1973], a new livestock building is being constructed by high school classes and volunteer labor. Business firms were contributors."

"A few men worked many hours, spent entire weekends and in some cases heir vacation time to build the Verde Valley Fair Association to that it is today."

"Some of the first volunteers and fair commissioners were: Buck Jones, Clyde Hance, Jr., Chuck Mabery, Pat Patterson, Pete Minter, Paul Kasparian, Bert Owen, Carlton Camp, Mickey Ryan, Ernie Broughton, Rusty Verretto, all of Cottonwood. From Cornville were Don Godard, Ross Rhoton, Pierce Rhodes, and Cliff Baxter. Clarkdale participants were Ken Chilton and John Bell. Camp Verde contributed with John Reddell, Loft Holloman, and Bill Teague."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, May 10, 1973; page 13.)

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