Kincaid fair a lasting tradition

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
From left, Bonnie Adams, Linda McAdam and Violet Holt checked in quilts Thursday at the Kincaid Free Fair.

For years Coletta Sprague, Sandra Hosley and Mary Jane Holloway looked forward to opening day of the Kincaid Free Fair when they could count on catching up with each other while they recorded 4-H entries.
Thursday afternoon was different: Holloway died in January.
But, true to the community spirit that keeps the fair alive, Sprague and Hosley were back to record entries.
The women predicted they would be busy mainly from 4 to 7 p.m. Though 4-H clubs have seen a reduction in forces, involvement in the Kincaid fair remains strong, they said.
“A photography category was added last year and we thought we’d get maybe a dozen entries,” Hosley said. “We had 80. And look over there at all the quilts. We also have more arts and crafts than we used to.”
Sprague, a fair worker for about 45 years, and Hosley, a regular since she retired from Crest School District 20 years ago, are typical of the involvement with the annual event.
The main fair hall Thursday afternoon held two dozen or more people. Some came to put preserved foods in neat rows on elevated shelving, others to tag quilts and still others to rave about farm and garden produce. Most came to visit, to exercise their small-town privilege of oohing and awing about a new grandbaby, or great-grandbaby, and to sympathize that with all the robust crops this year some fields just didn’t do well. Such small talk is the lifeblood of enduring friendships.

“IT’S THE TOWN’S homecoming,” Sprague said of the fair, “and has been for as long as I can remember. When new people come on Saturday (the parade starts at 1:30) they can’t believe what they’re seeing. We always have a big crowd.”
The fair began 101 years ago and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008, but this year’s is the 99th fair.
“Mixed up?” Hosley asked. “This is the 99th because a couple of years during World War II there wasn’t a fair.”
No matter the year, people keep coming to the fair because that’s the connection to their southeast Kansas roots.
“We have a great time, and I’m not even from Kincaid,” Sprague said. She grew up not too far away, though, and all of her married life, to Vernon, she’s been in the Kincaid neighborhood.
“Some of us are getting a little old,” Hosley said, “but the good part is some of the younger girls (the 30- and 40-somethings) are helping out. They have a lot of enthusiasm.”
They’ll have to go some to match the enthusiasm of those they’re starting to replace, but it is a process that has played out well before.