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In Print: On News Stands Now

SMALL TOWNS HAVE THE BEST FESTIVALS

by Tumbleweed Smith

We had a good time at the Fisher County airport between Roby and Rotan. It was the first annual Boot Scoot and Wild Hog Fest. Those folks know how to have a party. The event took place at the airport because area pilots were on hand to give kids their first ride in an airplane. Nearly a hundred went way up high into the sky.

The newly organized Chamber of Commerce was looking for some kind of fundraiser and since wild hogs are roaming around Fisher County these days, chamber directors thought they should be a part of it.

'It's the biggest thing we've ever done,' says Rosemary Donham, publisher of the Rotan Advance and Roby Star newspapers. 'We didn't want a cake sale or a garage sale. Everybody does those. We wanted something different. We decided to do something big instead of something small.'

The chamber paid for the gasoline the planes used. 'We wanted the kids to have free plane rides,' says Rosemary. 'In order to do that, we wanted the pilots to have an incentive to fly in.'

Fisher County only has 4,000 residents. 600 of them live in Roby, about 2,000 live in Rotan. The airport had a huge tent where about 350 people gathered for a steak dinner Thursday night before the weekend events started on Saturday (Friday is football and you don't plan anything on Friday night during football season in West Texas). After a gospel group entertained the crowd, a live auction raised about $10,000.

Saturday morning 28 vendors showed up to sell everything from books and antiques to marshmallow shooters and cowboy hats. Kids bobbed for applies and entered contests to see who could blow the biggest bubble gum bubble (the winner blew a 6-incher). Sassy the clown made balloon figures and painted faces. There was a big slide and a mechanical bull. Cheer leaders and synchronized dancers performed in the shadows of the airplane hangars.

The thing I noticed most was children ages 5-10 were free to be kids. Their parents let them wander around to see everything with their little buddies. Kids being kids without their parents right behind them sensing danger is a beautiful thing to see. You don't see much of that in Dallas or Houston.

I got to judge the barbeque cook-off late Saturday afternoon. There was wild hog, to be sure, but the dozen cooks also brought in chicken, beans, chili, ribs, brisket and a scary category called Weird Stuff. The cooks proudly displayed their elaborate cooking setups to the site judges. I didn't get a single bribe offer. The winners got handsome trophies and bragging rights.

After the judging, the crowd sauntered over to the tent for a big dance featuring two local groups and legendary Texas musician Gary P. Nunn and his band.

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