North Texas Daily

The family behind the fair and rodeo

The family behind the fair and rodeo

The family behind the fair and rodeo
August 05
14:17 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

For more than 130 years, the North Texas Fair and Rodeo has served as the largest and longest running event in Denton. With events ranging from bull riding and livestock competitions to concerts and fair games, the fair and rodeo welcomes in more than 175,000 visitors a year.

At the head of this event is Nanci Kimmey, the North Texas State Fair Association executive assistant. Kimmey, who has been involved with the Fair and Rodeo since the ‘80s, has been a part of the “fair life” since she was small.

“The fair got into my blood as a young girl,” Kimmey said. “My mother worked at the State Fair of Texas. I used to have that whole place as my playground. I would watch the actors rehearse in the music hall and ride all the rides over and over. So when I moved to Denton in 1975, it didn’t take long for me to get involved in the Fair and Rodeo.”

Since then, Kimmey has made it from Fair and Rodeo volunteer to being on the Board of Directors of Texas Association of Fairs and Events, the governing body of all 200-plus fairs in Texas.

This year, the North Texas Fair and Rodeo will be held from Aug. 19 to 27, providing days full of roping, horseback riding, concerts and more. Although the event itself runs for a little over a week, the planning of the event takes over a year. Kimmey, along with a team of people, start planning the following year’s fair and rodeo before the current one even starts.

“It takes a lot of small details to create the bigger picture,” Kimmey said. “We do as much as we can as quick as we can, but there are so many last minute things that we have to take in to account to make sure all the puzzle pieces come together.”

Many different events make up the North Texas Fair and Rodeo in order for it to appeal to every person and family.

What got the show started in the first place over 130 years ago, the rodeo, happens every day of the fair. The fair has rodeo events that include bull riding to a 21-and-under rodeo show. In addition, local ranches compete against each other during events to receive “bragging rights” while also learning from fellow ranchers.

Tom Shaw, who is currently on the rodeo committee, has been involved in the rodeo since the ‘60s. He said that although some people may be weary of the traditional sense of a “rodeo,” one of the fair’s main goals is to make sure all the animals are safe and that all the guests are having a great time.

“The biggest draw really is the competition. This is a good old family show where people cannot only get entertained but educated, too,” Shaw said. “Some people may think because of what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies that the animals may not be handled properly or fed anything. But I can assure you; they’re fat, happy and taken care of. And the folks handling them are ready to put on a show.”

For those who may not be as drawn to the rodeo, however, the fair hosts carnival events, performances and attractions so that everyone can find something. Kimmey, who helps line up various acts and performers, said that since this is an event for everyone, she wants to make sure everyone has something they would love.

Bands, such as Josh Abbott Band, Steve Warnier and the Randy Rogers band, will be filling up the concert calendar during the nine days of the Fair and Rodeo. In addition, Loop Rawlins of America’s Got Talent will be performing gun slinging and rope swinging acts and the Bengal Tiger Experience will be exhibiting rare tigers.

“We do all this so the people of Denton have a place to come and have fun with their families,” said Cheyanne Bullock, a volunteer and Texas Tech agricultural leadership and education senior. “If you like country music or you don’t, if you want to see a rodeo or just want to see your friends, there’s something for everyone and we get to do it all while doing our part in preserving our Western heritage.”

Besides the entertainment, however, Kimmey said she also strives to get people to learn about the history of the fair and rodeo that takes place in the city. While many people go to the fair and rodeo to have a good time, she also wants to educate people about where they started and where they are at now.

Kimmey recently released a book alongside Dr. Georgia Caraway, titled “North Texas State Fair and Rodeo,” to help Dentonites see how impactful the fair and rodeo has been in the city’s history.

“We wanted to create something that was informative but entertaining,” Kimmey said. “It really showcases what this event is about because for over 130 years, the city has gotten together to celebrate this historical event. Now, people have the history of this event in front of them.”

With the event two weeks away, Kimmey said the planning is kicking into gear to get last minute details situated. Even though she hopes the attendees will enjoy the acts and shows, she said she also hopes to provide unique memories and family time. 

“It’s important that we are a family-oriented event because, really, the fair and rodeo itself is a family,” Kimmey said. “My daughter is a second generation volunteer and I met my husband here. I’ve watched people I grew up with experiencing this event with their own kids. It’s in my blood, and I just hope I can bring my love for the fair and rodeo into each and every attendees’ heart.”

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