Dairy Fest 2007: Cow did we get from there to here?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a series of occasional articles by the 2007 Dairy Festival Board of Directors on planning for the annual salue to the dairy industry.)

May 13, 2007 - The old adage "time flies when you are having fun" certainly applies here in Hopkins County! Lots of folks having been having lots of fun with various activities. We certainly live in a great community that is generous and supportive of all organizations and their events.

Eleven have signed up as Dairy Festival Queen candidates. Shown left to right are (front) Colleen Lucky, Megan Arnold, courtney Hughes, Johna Vaughn, Aly Jackson, reigning Queen Katie Watson, (back)Jenna Davis, Sarah Yosten Chelsey Tiegiser, Elise Rascoe, Morgan McCormack and Kelsey Evans

Speaking of time flying by, there are only about 35 days left until the first weekend of Dairy Festival! Just imagine — the balloons, the 5K Milk run, the parade, the milking contest, the ice cream freeze-off, the Corvette show, the Foods contest, the Dairy Show, the 4H Project show, and on and on! The parade will be the first time that most of you will get a chance to meet our queen candidates. Some of you may already know that this year the candidates will not be riding atop "floats." Many questions have been posed about this, so here is a very brief history of 48 years of Dairy Festival. 

1959 was the first year, and the event was initiated in order to honor the dairymen and the dairy industry of Hopkins County. Sunell Rogers was the first Queen, with the contest being more about selling tickets. Within a few years, the contest for Queen had evolved into a full round of activities. Contestants were chosen by the sponsors, who were usually women's clubs, and of late, a few commercial entities. The clubs began having a friendly rivalry of "who could build the best parade entry"! The clubs (and whomever else they could coerce into helping) built the "floats" with homemade and handmade materials in very secret locations. Supposedly, everyone else wanted to get a peek at whatever the "competition" was creating. In later years, one former contestant recently confessed, these ladies would drive around and try to find the secret locations to get a peek. The first year's floats were basic trailers, covered in hay with real calves on them and the contestants dressed according to each year's theme: such as, Rhapsody in Blue (60); and Fantasy in Dairyland (61). As the years progressed and the floats evolved, their creativity was put to the test to depict these themes, for example, Our American Heritage (72); Academy Awards (75); Dairyland Salutes Texas (86), and Happy Days in Dairyland (90) — just to give you an idea of how creative these float workers had to be.

Generally, floats have been about 40 feet long, up to 15 feet tall, and always had moveable parts (either man-powered or battery-powered). The shaping of the exterior is done with chicken wire which is then stuffed (literally) by many hands and in many colors to create the depictions of the theme.

One particularly memorable float had a 10-foot high stream of flowing milk going into a huge pot of gold that was flanked by 5-foot tall mushrooms under which sat current pillars of our community dressed as leprechauns who were guarding the contestant and the golden milk! Another one was a whale which entirely covered a riding lawn mower, complete with long eyelashes that moved as his eyes opened and closed.

The floats have had sound effects, blowing smoke, swings in trees, tons of flowing milk and huge replicas of ice cream concoctions, and always very artistic depictions of cows in various activities and modes of dress. 

The morning of the parade, the floats were judged in every detail, and the results were known on pageant night. (By the way, the term "float" comes from the idea that the float really does float down the street — not just roll down on the wheels of its foundation.) The Genealogical Society has nearly all of the Dairy Festival Scrapbooks and other photos and memorabilia. They would enjoy having you visit and look through the history of Dairy Fest and Hopkins County.

The "Little Kids" tradition of having preschoolers (ages 3 -5) participate evolved quickly as parents and grandparents of contestants wanted a legacy to begin. So, little ones were asked to be part of the pageant and to add to the theme decor with their costumes. At first, the Little Kids rode on the float with the candidate and accompanied the big girl during the opening scene of the pageant. In later years, the parents of the Little Kids got into the spirit of things and began building their own "mini-floats." These floats began as decorated golf carts with the Little Kid pairs securely fastened in the back, and, of course, dressed to depict that year's theme. Competition among the Little Kids parents led to even more elaborate and labor intensive mini-floats. Each year these floats were judged the morning of the parade and results awarded on Pageant night.

Last year (DF 2006) was the first year in over 40 years that the individual contestants (either as a group or singly) did NOT build their own floats. The board members and some helpers built two almost identical floats, with the help of some contestants and parents. Frankly, the world has changed and everyone is extremely busy, and Dairy Festival has not been able to enjoy the level of commitment and dedication from the community and its various groups and commercial ventures to get individual floats built. And, to be fair to the Board, our job has been to produce and promote the Festival, its many events, and the Pageant in order to bring attention to the dairy families and industries of Hopkins County. We are all too old and too busy ourselves to build floats! We certainly hope to see a return of last year's turnout by commercial concerns and non-profit organizations with their wonderful floats that were imaginative and carried out the Theme.

Also, each one of those entities that built a float got to experience the growth and camaraderie that goes along with the creativity and artistic talent required! Those 2006 floats were judged and the following winners in the Commercial Category were: 1st — Dairy Max, Inc.; 2nd — S.S. Health & Rehab; and 3rd — Melba's Kreations. In the Non-Profit or General Organization Category, the winners were: 1st — First Baptist Church VBS of Sulphur Springs; 2nd — County Line Baptist Church of Yantis; and 3rd — Gunn Farms. All of the above received plaques and framed letters of appreciation and achievement. The same will occur this year.

We are hoping to top our record-breaking number of parade entries of last year, which was 214. So, businesses and commercial enterprises and non-profit organizations and other groups, please get busy building a float! It can be small or large, simple or elaborate. The theme this year is "Moo — niversities" which can be about any University, its colors, logo, and/or mascot depicted in a very dairy way!

As school begins to wind down, the contestants are making preparations for the exciting week of June 8 — June 16. Hopefully, you have already purchased Pageant tickets from a contestant or two. The contestants participate in each activity during Dairy Festival — from helping with the Hot Air Balloon Rally and Glow to riding in the Parade to milking cows and helping serve Homemade Ice Cream. This year we are pleased to have 11 contestants. The following is a list of the candidates, their parents, and their sponsors:

Megan Arnold (Benjamin & Veronica Arnold) — sponsored by Dial Study Club

Jenna Davis (Chris & Jajan Davis) — sponsored by Mothers Culture Club

Kelsey Evans (Doug & Sharla Evans) — sponsored by Community Bank

Courtney Hughes (Rick & Kim Hughes, Allen & Tammy Philips) — sponsored by Farm Bureau

Aly Jackson (B. J. & Ludonna Smithers) — sponsored by Jr. Waverly

Colleen Lucky (Jerry & June Lucky) — sponsored by Front Porch News Texas

Morgan McCormack (Sput & Karen McCormack) — sponsored by Alliance Bank

Elise Rascoe (Billy & Linda Rascoe) — sponsored by Bell Concrete

Chelsey Tiegiser (Don & Taffy Tiegiser) — sponsored by City National Bank

Johna Vaughn (Craig & Kathy Vaughn) — sponsored by Grocery Supply Company

Sarah Yosten (Ricky & Jana Godwin and Matt Yosten) — sponsored by

Guaranty Bond Bank.

Please congratulate these young ladies when you see them and be sure to support their ticket selling endeavors.

Mark your calendar now for the contestant's Pageant on June16 at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center. The first weekend of activities begins with the Balloon Fly-in and Glow on Friday evening, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. near the Civic Center and/or SSHS grounds. Then bright and early Saturday morning, see the beautiful Hot Air Balloons at 6 a.m.; then the 5K Run beginning at 7:30 am at Coleman Park; the 4 H Project Show and the Extension Office Dairy Foods Contest at the Civic Center compound, before the fabulous and famous Parade, which begins at 11 a.m., leaving from Buford Park.

Contact phone numbers for these events are: Balloons — Pam Black 903.885.1420; 4-H Events — Barbara Sanders 903.885.3443; and the Parade -Mike Blount 903.885.7729 or Terry Blount 903.885.9521; Little Kids — Heather Salverino at  903.243.4138. After the Parade, enjoy the World Famous Ice Cream Freeze-Off, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce at 4 p.m. on the Chamber grounds — contact Linda Henton at 903.885.7523. Then that evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Hot Air Balloons Fly-in and Glow near the Civic Center/SSHS grounds.

All of this information and more will be seen in this newspaper and heard on the radio stations in the following weeks. 

So, here we go with another wonderful small town "Slice of Americana." What a joy and a privilege to be able to participate in a nearly 50-year-old historic festival! Enjoy!

The Board of Directors of the Hopkins County Dairy Festival 2007

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