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Cleburne County Fair draws light crowd

Fair days ahead

People enjoy a spinning, diving ride at the Cleburne County Fair, held Saturday afternoon and evening in Heflin. 

Light rain and a global pandemic didn’t stop a small crowd from gathering Saturday at the Cleburne County Fair and Rodeo.

The fair, hosted by the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, sat close to Interstate 20 in Heflin.

The event was “honestly a blast,” according to Cleburne County Middle School seventh-grader Lili Whatley.

“We can’t complain, given the weather and the current conditions of the pandemic,” chamber president Warren Sarrell said.

Sarrell said the fair was the chamber’s primary fundraiser, and it helped fund the group’s organizations while promoting local businesses.

“It’s a small-town atmosphere,” he said. “It brings people together.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarrell said, the chamber did everything it could to ensure state guidelines were being followed, including posting signs encouraging fair-goers to wear masks, spacing the vendor booths more widely apart and setting up hand sanitizing stations.

Despite the reminders, few members of the crowd were wearing masks.

Donald and Jody Fleming of Heflin kept their masks in their pockets as they walked the fairgrounds and said they’d made sure to keep their distance from others.

“If you see a crowd forming, go the other way,” Jody Fleming said.

Whatley said she had typically only left her home on a limited basis during the pandemic, so the fair was a special occasion for her. She said she was glad to see the smattering of raindrops, which cooled her off.

She pointed to a ride which had cars that looked like rockets, which was her favorite.

“A few of the rides I was pretty scared, but it was really fun,” Whatley said.

The Flemings, accompanied by their 13-year old grandson, said they’d been coming to the fair for as long as they could remember.

In his teens, Donald Fleming said, he’d help assemble the rides and take them down afterward.

“It didn’t pay much, but it was something to do,” he said, laughing. “They’d pay you $20 to put them together.”

Now, Fleming said, the rides seemed smaller and his wife said she noticed there were more vendors.

Sisters Kai and Trinity Smith, who had made the two-hour drive from their Prattville home with their parents, said they used to live in the area and came back to the fair every year.

Kai Smith said her favorite ride was called “the paratrooper” and Trinity Smith said she especially enjoyed the ferris wheel.

“After I went on a rough ride, it was good to calm down,” Trinity Smith said.