The County Fair Pretty Baby Contest

When our oldest son was just 2 years old we lived in a little Kansas town where the county fair was held. That year the fair board determined to drop the fair queen idea when they found out that two of the three cute girls in the county would be on vacation during fair week. They chose to have a pretty baby contest instead.

My wife and I decided that we would not enter our baby in the contest. The reason we gave each other was we didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the other families when our baby would win. The REAL reason: we were scared to death he would NOT win and we would feel awful.

The contest was held on Saturday morning before the parade. The winner was a sweet looking girl all gussied up in a frilly white dress. Her mother (the local hair dresser) had curled her very blond hair into golden locks and then added a bright yellow bow. Not only was she cute and well dressed, her grandpa was one of the county commissioners.

The second-place winner was also a girl, the daughter of the vice-president of the bank. I’m told he was so bitter his daughter didn’t take first place that two weeks later he foreclosed on the car loan of the county commissioner’s daughter. We were right by not entering our son. No telling what the banker would have done to us if his kid had finished third.

The parade in this little county fair was only six blocks long. It started in the yard of the grade school on the East end of town, proceeded West past the funeral home, took a left turn to go past the park, then back around to Main Street where it finished up in front of the post office and liquor store. There the fair board had placed a flat-bed trailer with chairs on it for the mayor, county commissioners, and the winner of the pretty baby contest.

Right across the street from the post office and the liquor store was the First National Bank. The bank had its own flat-bed trailer for bank executives and chamber of commerce big-wigs to view the parade. They provided free beer and hot wings for their guests. The vice president of the bank, still upset about his daughter losing the pretty baby contest, was arrested for becoming drunk and disorderly.

The fair was so small we always got the crummiest carnival on the circuit. This year it was an outfit out of Arkansas. They had a few kiddy rides, a couple of adult rides, and a midway where you could win cupie dolls and teddy bears by knocking over moving stuffed cats or weighted milk bottles. I spent three dollars trying to knock over the milk bottles with a baseball. All I won was a cheap pennant on a stick that said, “Arkansas is for lovers.”

Some of the men were complaining that they didn’t have a girlie show this year. They all still talk about the year the Methodist preacher was caught coming out of the late-late girlie show. He’s the bishop now.

The real competition at the fair always was in the fair pavilion where the women competed for first, second, and third place in canning, pie baking, vegetable growing, etc.

There was real tension in the air this year as Mrs. Arbuckle’s apple pie was the inside favorite to break a county fair record. She had won the blue ribbon three years running, and this year her pie, with its golden, tender crust and homemade apple pie filling made from apples she picked from her own tree, looked better than ever.

No one knows for sure how it happened, but somehow one of the judges dropped Mrs. Arbuckle’s pie and it splattered all over the rough concrete floor. The county commissioners were called into an emergency meeting to decide what to do. After some serious discussion, the commissioners voted two to one to disqualify Mrs. Arbuckle’s pie from the competition due to an act of God.

After the emergency meeting vote, Mrs. Arbuckle, usually a sweet old lady, stood up and shouted at one of the commissioners, “Go ahead and disqualify my pie you creep. We all know that your grandbaby is ugly.” It was the only year the pretty baby contest was held.


PS: Everything in this story may not have happened precisely as described, but then, if it didn’t happen that way, it should have.

(c)2018 Dr. Ronald D. S. Ross


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