By Heather Regula, Correspondent
The Bell County Expo Center grounds came alive with the sounds of excited children, music and the smell of grilled and fried goodness over the weekend. The carnival was open during the hours of the fair – 5 pm-12 am on Friday, Saturday 12 pm-12 am, and Sunday 12 pm-12 am.
Melvin Lowe, the owner of Lowe’s Legs, has been cooking BBQ and turkey legs for 15 years.
“Lowe’s Legs provides food at about 25 events annually, and the fair is always one of my favorites to work. It is a lot of fun to mingle with all the different people. Everyone always loves the turkey legs – that my specialty,” said Lowe.
The Alvarado family, of Killeen, attended the Central Texas State Fair for the first time on Saturday.
“We have lived in Central Texas for about six months, and we love this area. We are from south Texas, and this area offers so much. We love the proximity to larger areas,” said Antonio Alvarado.
Vincent Browning, a farmer in Liberty, has a unique experience for people at the fair this weekend.
“Oliver is my 13-year-old African Watusi. I brought him here this weekend so people could see something out of the ordinary, and take a picture sitting on him. Oliver likes coming to places like this, but life at home is pretty quiet and calm,” said Browning. “He just hangs out on the farm with his 15 brothers and sisters.”
Fabiola Ferba, of Indiana, was in Central Texas just for this weekend.
“I live in Indiana, and my husband is stationed here for one year, so I didn’t move with him. I came to visit for the weekend, and it’s kind of cool that the fair and rodeo are going. It gives us something to do together,” said Ferba. “I saw Oliver and wanted to sit on him and get my photo taken. It was a great experience, but I was nervous!”
My Vuong, the Emergency Manager for the City of Killeen, had tables set up inside the Expo Center.
“September is ‘Preparedness Month,’ and we are here today raising awareness. We want people to be aware of our hazards. The number one natural hazard in Bell County is flooding, according to the Central Texas Council of Governments. People need to know what to do if a disaster strikes,” said Vuong. “We are also recruiting for the Killeen and Temple Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).”
The carnival, vendors, and food stands were all very popular with fair-goers. However, the real attention getter was the PBR Rodeo. This year’s fair featured two nights of professional bull-riding.
Rocket Ryan Litwin, a PBR Entertainer, has been captivating audiences since 1999.
“This is my eighth year coming to Belton. This town is pretty special to me as it was the first big rodeo I ever worked. The people here and the community have become friends and family to me. I met my wife here about five years ago.” explained Litwin. “The traveling part of my job is both a perk and the biggest challenge. I love getting to see all these different places and meet some many people, however traveling is tough, and I miss my family a lot.”
Jake King, of New Waverly, has been a Bull Fighter for eight years.
“My job is to help the bull riders get away. It can be exhilarating and a little scary at times,” said King.
The rules of bull-riding are relatively simple – a qualified ride is eight seconds, and the clock starts when the bull’s shoulder crosses the gate’s plane. The clock stops if rider’s hand comes out of the rope, or if the rider touches the bull, himself or the ground. Bull riding, an eight-second test of strength and balance, is not for the faint of heart.
Casey Kirwan, of Little River, Cali., has been a professional bull rider for three years.
“I grew up on the beach in California. Some of the bull-riders here come from a cowboy background, but I am a professional athlete.I raced motocross professionally. I’ve been riding bulls for three years,” said Kirwan. “The biggest challenge is fighting what’s going on in your head. It’s so easy to overthink the ride, but bull riding is all about following your body, and the bull. I’ve been able to travel and meet some cool people through the bull-riding circuit, and I’ve been blessed to make it through each ride just fine.”
Texas country music fans delighted in the live music nightly. Friday night featured The Josh Abbott Band, The Casey Donahue Band played on Saturday, and Aaron Watson headlined on Sunday.
The Central Texas State Fair is always a well-attended event, and it’s something that many families look forward to attending each year.