OSWEGO — It’s been 50 years since Everett Becker joined the Labette County Fair, serving on the fair board and as superintendent. While times may have changed, Becker says he has not. His primary focus is “helping the little people and watching them succeed.”
He’s referring to the 4-H and FFA youth who participate in the Labette County Fair each year. The thing he enjoys most is “watching them grow up, have children, and then those kids end up participating usually, too.”
“That’s really my favorite thing about doing this for so long,” Becker said while leaning into shade near Oswego Memorial Stadium at the fairgrounds. “It’s been a genuine honor for me helping everyone and watching those kids succeed. It’s a great feeling. The kids and their families are what make this fair.”
He could tell you about how the arena formerly was situated (parallel lengthwise to the main concrete bleachers), or the many projects he’s put together. “Honestly, it’s been a long time,” Becker said with a smile.
“It’s not just me that’s done a whole lot. It’s everyone that gets together like this to make it all possible,” he said.
Becker joined the fair board in the fall of 1969, but he “sort of stumbled in on it.”
“Back when I owned and operated a blacksmith and welding shop, it used to sit near a former city office, where the (Oswego) Fire Department is now. The chamber of Oswego back then would meet there, and one of the fair board members asked if I’d join it. Back then there were about five or six people and they had a seat open. I was just in the alley walking through and they pulled me inside, so here I am,” he said with a chuckle.
Although he sold his shop around 1981, Becker worked at John Deere and continued to weld, occasionally making repairs and “answering phone calls to help someone fix equipment.”
“I’ve made several projects for the fair, like a set of bleachers they still use by the baseball field,” he said gesturing to the bleachers he built in the 1970s. “But nowadays I’m sure some of the things I’ve done got moved or had to be torn down ’cause they were getting old.”
Becker’s experience with the fair results from his time and experience as a young participant, winning awards with team roping competitions.
“I’ve always enjoyed horses,” he said. “Still enjoy being around them.”
His three children, Jimmy, Sherry and Rocky, followed their father’s footsteps into some of the events, with his oldest also preferring horse events.
“They did well. I’m very proud of them and my grandkids,” he said.
“Might not have been a grand champion, but we were always in the blue ribbon group, but just being in the fair was a fun time for us,” he said with a laugh.
Becker is also known for “being that ice cream guy” during the fair.
“Oh, everyone might know me for making up ice cream and handing it out to the volunteers,” he said. “I was making anywhere from 14 to 22 gallons in a week. I’ll probably keep doing that anyway even if they don’t want it anymore. It’s just a fun time for me.”
One accomplishment he’s proud of is the Kansas Fairs and Festival Hall of Fame plaque he has hanging in his living room.
“Now that one, I’m pretty happy to boast about,” he said. He was awarded the plaque for his work with the fair in the mid-1990s.
“Oh, I couldn’t remember the exact date without looking at the plaque,” he said. “But it really is an honor to have something like that. It wasn’t just me, though. There was also Bill McKinzie, Elsie Vail, Kenton Rife and Marvin Anderegg. And, really, I just want to say that it’s an entire community and group effort. It’s hard to focus on one particular thing. But I’ll tell you I sure do love everything about the fair and it’s just been an amazing experience. I’ll always enjoy watching the little ones grow and succeed. That’s the biggest and most important thing to me.”
When asked if there was one thing he hasn’t done in the fair, he adjusted his hat and thought about it.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve done much with the tire racks yet. Guess I’ll have to see where I can help out with those.”
The Labette County Fair starts Saturday with the horse show in Oswego and runs through the next week.