The cool, tang of pineapple and raspberry swirled Dole Whip ice cream melted on my tongue, providing a moment of bliss. It had already been a memorable day at the Yavapai County Fair and there was still so much to see.
Upon entering earlier that day, I immediately noticed the many pens with goats, sheep, and pigs. I longed to scratch the tops of the heads of the goats who eagerly poked their heads into the walkways. I wondered, would they be soft or scratchy? Yes!
I heard the sounds of an auctioneer speaking so quickly it was dizzying, and I listened intently as he called numbers and snagged bids. I made my way to the neighboring tent to watch for a few moments as they brought up some goats - just a couple at a time - and watched as they worked with precision and speed in the process of auctioning off the next animal. This was the Youth Auction, and all proceeds benefit the kids and reward them for their year-long efforts in raising the livestock.
As I moved past the tent and further into the grounds I noticed a crowd had gathered in the grandstands and cheers rose from excited fans. It didn’t take long before I was pulled into the excitement and quickly found I was leaning forward in my seat taking in the NFR Junior Bull Riding event. I’m always amazed by the strength and bravery of adult bull riders but today, seeing the young riders on miniature bulls out there put me to the edge of my seat. I couldn’t help but cheer along with the crowd as each rider came out and held on as long as they could with the goal of reaching the coveted 8 seconds.
Knowing there was so much more still to see I slowly made my way to the top of the grandstand, pausing to take in each rider as he exited the chute. I walked among the variety of booths with wares of all kinds to offer visitors. I made my way around the back of the grandstands and entered a small green tent with a zippered entry.
This zippered entry was actually the opening to a wonderland of butterflies. They clung to the mesh ceiling of the space, hovered among the flowering plants. Visitors were given nectar sticks to attract the butterflies. I was enchanted and stood close to a lady standing next to me as she gently held her stick for a beautiful orange and brown butterfly to perch upon.
Reluctantly I left the butterflies, as my tummy rumbled at the delicious smells wafting from the many options just waiting for me. I had no idea what type of fair food I should choose; pizza, corn dogs, fresh cut French fries, or fry bread. Maybe a funnel cake or cotton candy. As I noshed on the delicious options I made my way into the fairway where screams of thrill-seekers and anticipation filled the air.
The sun began to set, the bright lights of the games and rides lit the grounds. I paused at the base of the Zipper and watched as those in line waited eagerly for their turn. Groups of teens ran from ride to ride, ready for that next burst of adrenaline. Families moved among the gentler children’s rides, cameras at the ready to catch that precious smile while their child had the time of their life.
I left the rides and wandered through a building with all varieties of poultry and rabbits. I heard squawks, calls, and even a rooster or two crow as I made my way through the massive space. I had several laughs at the reactions of children as they watched the birds and rabbits with avid fascination.
On the main stage, two amazing bands were playing that night. The Do Wah Riders, an upbeat country band with a Louisiana twist and American Country Music singer, Ned LeDoux.
The 5 band members of the Do Wah Riders took the stage with vigor and launched into their first song. The different members played a variety of instruments including bass, bass guitar, electric guitar, violin, keyboard, drums, an accordion, harmonica, and even a washboard type instrument called a vest frottoir. Their toe-tapping Zydeco style music had listeners pouring into the area and before long every seat in the area was filled. Their time on the stage flew by quickly as they played through one lively tune after the next. Too soon their time on the stage came to an end.
To top out the night, headliner Ned LeDoux and his band took the stage. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement as the members of the band climbed the stairs and joined the fans who quickly rushed in to stand right by the stage. Lead guitarist Mark Sissel, steel guitarist David Kurrasch, bass guitarist Lane Turner, and drummer KW Turnbow all took the stage, and then launched into their opening song to the audience cheers.
Those cheers became a roar as lead singer Ned LeDoux took the stage. I cheered along with everyone who crowded around me.
The band played several bright and lively tunes, and then left Ned LeDoux alone on the stage. LeDoux introduced a special song, a dedication to his dad Chris LeDoux who had passed away. I couldn’t help but feel a tug on my heart as he performed 'The Hawk' to an audience who went from loud and excited to hushed, all soaking up the meaning of the words.
It was an exciting, adventurous day at the fair. Closing out the evening with two amazing bands that brought visitors from the entire fairgrounds into the space to take in wonderful music was a perfect ending.
As I made my way out of the fair, I could hear the screams of diehard riders taking another thrill-seeking trip on one of the rides. Memories of the tasty food and strains of music that came to end all too soon floated in my mind. I couldn’t help but smile and think, "I can’t wait until I get to come back to the Yavapai County Fair.”