Wayne America

After 27 years, Williams ready to enjoy the Wayne County Fair in new way

John Williams sprays kerosene on the unserviceable flags that were part of the opening ceremonies for the 95th annual Wayne County Fair. After 27 years on the fair board and watching the fair grow over the years, Williams said it is time to step down as a board member. (Photo copyright Mikey C Productions)

During Saturday’s activities at the Wayne County Fair, John Williams took some time to do something he hopes to do more of at next year’s fair . . .

He enjoyed the fair as a participant instead of as a board member.

After 27 years on the fair board, Williams is stepping down later this fall, ending the better part of more than 60 years of active involvement in activities at the Wayne County Fair.

From his start in 4-H to the last several years of doing everything from taking tickets at the gate to helping to run the beer garden, it’s been a lot of fun for the lifelong Wayne County resident.

“My brother (Larry) and I showed cattle here when we were kids,” Williams said while cooling off in the Commercial Building during a break between events. “Later on, my kids were in 4-H and I got involved helping to put up pens for the open class beef show and one of the board members asked if I would be interested in being on the fair board. I said yes, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Williams, who was born on the family farm southwest of Carroll, has lived in Wayne County all of his 72 years. His grandpa bought 120 acres of land in 1907, but died during a flu epidemic about a decade later. Williams’ dad eventually took over the farm and bought an additional 40 acres before Williams took over and bought another 80 acres. He and his wife, Judy, moved into Carroll a few years ago, but still own the land and rent it out to F&S Feedlots.

Once he got involved with the fair board, Williams spent a number of years helping out in a variety of areas. He ran the gate for 10 years and helped run the beer garden for another 10 years, and now is something of a utility member, pitching in to help out wherever it is needed.

“I went back to the front gate a few years ago but I do a lot of the mowing and fixing bathrooms and try to help out with whatever needs to be done,” he said. “If it has a steering wheel and a seat, that’s where I do my best work.”

Williams has seen a lot of change during his 27 years on the Wayne County Fair Board, from the recent construction to the addition of corporate sponsorships that has helped the fair continue to grow and be a popular summer event in northeast Nebraska.

“It’s probably quadrupled when you talk about the size and the number of events that are going on,” he said. “It’s just exploded, simply because with the changing of the times where we had to get bigger.”

Corporate support from businesses in the county has been a big key to the fair’s growth.

“The businesses in Wayne, Winside, Wakefield, Carroll and Hoskins have really stepped up, and we have had these corporate sponsors the last 10 years or so who have really helped out. You see all those signs along the entrance there, and that’s a good sign of the help that we’ve gotten over the years and we have put those dollars to good use.”

The building additions that have taken place over the last several years is a great indicator of that, and the growth of events like the Saturday concert, the demolition derby and other events have made the Wayne County Fair a popular event every summer.

Williams, is particularly fond of the tractor pull, an event that “an old farmer” like him can’t help but enjoy.

“I remember going to the first tractor pull here back in 1966 when they had the step-on sleds, and that’s just something that I’ve enjoyed and it’s really grown and become a whole new ball game now.”

Williams said the fair board members that he’s worked with over the years, both past and present, have worked very hard over the years to consistently make the fair fun for everybody.

“People like Leland Herman, Ray Roberts, Felix Dorcey, Albert Topp, Bob Nissen, Howard Greve, Mickey Topp – these people over the years and the current board members are great people and they do a lot more work than maybe people realize,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked under four presidents – Mickey, Louis Lutt, Dave Jaeger and now Kevin Davis, and it’s really grown because of these people on the board.”

Next year, Williams said he’ll probably pitch in and help out with mowing and other things on the to-do list for the fair, but he’s looking forward to enjoying the fair from a participation perspective.

In fact, he’s already getting a head start.

“I’d just like to come out and watch,” he said. “I tried that some today, and it’s really enjoyable.”

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