The 2017 Labette County Fair never really ended for fair board members and community supporters — who gave tirelessly of their time, money and talents to unveil a brighter future for local youth in 2018.
On July 21, following the Labette County Fair 4-H and FFA horse show, the fair board will dedicate the Maurice I. Wyckoff building — a 60- by 200-foot barn with permanent horse stalls and an indoor riding area.
“There are 15 members on our board and every other weekend since the fair ended last year, we’ve had a work day at the fairgrounds,” said Labette County Fair Board President J.J. Bebb. “They donate their time, their machines, their welders, their supplies and we’ve been working to get it finished on time.”
Thanks to generous financial support from Wyckoff family members, the building is fittingly named after one of the county’s first extension agents — a big supporter of youth development and Kansas State University.
The spacious new building developed out of a need for more project areas as the fair increased in size — but a project of this size doesn’t happen without a substantial amount of funding. In this case, one of the most impressive attributes of the addition is the community’s ability to build it debt free.
“We’re very fortunate to be part of a community that would raise this amount of funds to benefit the youth of their county for generations to come,” Bebb said.
Almost as quickly as the board identified a need for the addition, donations came rolling in, Bebb said. After sizable donations from the Wyckoff family, Beachner Grain and Frontier Farm Credit, as well as many private community donations and support through two fundraisers, the project was fully funded.
Koehn Contruction of Fredonia, Kansas, provided the design, engineering and construction aspects of the building — and their work wasn’t immune to the community spirit surrounding the project.
“They went above and beyond to design and engineer the building, as well as keeping it on budget,” Bebb said. “They knew what the project was for and they wanted to ensure it was done right.”
The city of Oswego stepped up as well to run water lines and make sure fire hydrants were up to code. Even the 4-H and FFA members involved in the fair contributed to the community-wide effort.
“Something we implemented this year is a two-hour work policy for every kid selling in the premium sale,” Bebb said. “We gave them six work day opportunities to get their hours in before the week of the fair and most of their work went toward a renovation of the hog barn we completed in addition to the new building.”
The hog barn renovation and new building will offer a completely new Labette County Fair experience — with increased shade for the hog exhibitors, a covered load-out and more room to view projects. These big changes couldn’t have come at a better time, Bebb said, with entries steadily increasing in many categories.
“This year our beef numbers — both steers and heifers — are up,” Bebb said. “I think we had over 70 steers weigh in and the bucket calf numbers are up as well.”
The increased participation is due in part to the success of the premium sale and the generosity of the sale buyers. Whether buying first place or last place, Labette County buyers focus on most important aspect of the fair — the kids.
“Our premium sale buyers — whether they’re in-county or from the area — really step up,” Bebb said. “We have buyers who steadily increase what they’re going to spend or they come with a budget and blow it to support a neighbor kid or faithful customer.”
Bebb said he is continually amazed and blessed by the legacy Labette County has of supporting youth projects and giving area kids outlets for success.
“We are raising up the future leaders of this county,” Bebb said. “The kids here today are the ones who will take over the reins in the next 15 or 20 years so we need to keep them participating and achieving in the program.”
The Labette County Fair facility, events and premium sale are boasted as some of the best across the state — an accomplishment not completed without hard work and thoughtful leadership.
“When county fair is over, we immediately begin preparing for the next year,” Bebb said. “That’s what I love so much about being a part of this — we have a long legacy of board members who want to improve the fair every single year.”
The 2018 Labette County Fair will be held July 21-28 at the Oswego Fairgrounds.