Fifty-four years ago, with only two large rented tents, a small carnival that was willing to take a lot of financial risk, and a host of willing helpers, work began on the first Rapides Fair. A sage grass pasture just west of Alexandria, which is the current site of the Coliseum and Louisiana National Guard Armory, was the first site of the Rapides Fair. After spending 53 years at its original site, the Rapides Fair has move to its new permanent location. The fair ground is located on Highway 71 South, adjacent to the Mega Shelter.
Several years ago, the Rapides Fair Association purchased 25 acres with the intention of developing the property to meet the needs of the Fair Association. The new fairground includes a lighted parking area with approximately 1,400 parking spaces, 50 RV hook ups and a carnival area. The elevation of the area has been raised to ensure good drainage and surface treatment to allow good traffic ability.
“Improvements have been made in the livestock, agriculture, home economics, special school and commercial exhibit areas which add to the convenience of those who come to display and compete and those present to observe,” says Rapides Parish Fair Association President Jimbo Thiels. “The Board of Directors of the Fair Association are working constantly to make it bigger and better every year. This progress can be realized through the efforts of the Board of Directors and the full support of the Rapides Parish Police Jury, the cities of Alexandria and Pineville, business and civic groups and individuals working together to assure the success of the fair. We urge everyone to continue to support and encourage our youth, for the betterment of themselves, our parish, our state and our nation.”
The Rapides Fair Association entered into a relationship with the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Transportation which allows for the site to be used by the LSU AgCenter during the year to support agriculture related events such as livestock shows. It is also available to the State of Louisiana through the Department of Transportation and Development for use during state declared emergencies to support the Mega Shelter located on the LSUA campus. The area can be used to park emergency vehicles, as needed, during an emergency.
One week during the year, the site will be used to support the Rapides Fair and will include the Mega Shelter for entertainment and activities. The Dewitt Livestock barn will be used for livestock exhibits. During the fair, 4-H, adult, senior citizen, nursing home and special school exhibits, and the barnyard nursery will be housed in the Mega Center. The compact tractor driving contest and the open rabbit show will also be held in the Mega Center. Livestock exhibits and shows will be held in the Dewitt Livestock Barn.
This year, the fair will feature a new exhibit on loan from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions entitled “A Farmer for a Day”. The Farmer for a Day Activity Station is an engaging, entertaining, educational way to provide families with young children an opportunity to make memories at your fair. Playing together at the Farmer for a Day Activity Station families learn that there is something (a farm) before the grocery store. Family after family will delight in finding eggs nestled in the straw under the chickens, plucking a shiny apple off the tree, and digging deep in the sand for the perfect potato. All the while, seeing, touching and feeling where their food comes from.
The Louisiana Lottery Stage will host outstanding live entertainment each night from Thursday through Saturday. New artist Troy Bullock will kick things off at 6:00pm on Thursday night. Friday’s performers include Carma and DJ Cupid featuring the Dance Party Express Band. KRRV will kick off a jam packed Saturday with their Listener Appreciation Show, followed by performances by Tyler Barham, Amber Hayes and Erica Nicole. This year’s fair promises outstanding musical talent for all to enjoy!
No fair would be complete without the varied and numerous exhibits and competitions. Participants from across Cenla will bring the very best of their fruits, vegetables, livestock, arts and crafts, and delicious culinary delights to compete for year-long bragging rights. The fair will host a special day dedicated to the most experienced fairgoers. Senior Citizens, ages 60 and over, along with all nursing home residents are eligible to participate in Senior Citizen Day on Friday, October 10th. All who participate must have a ticket, which can be obtained at all twelve Rapides Senior Citizen Centers, or by calling (318) 487-1561. All activities will take place in the Coliseum, from 8:30am until 12:30pm. Continuous entertainment, health screening, door prizes, awards and snacks will highlight the morning! From youth and pre-4H participants to retirees, the fair exhibits boasts opportunities for all ages!
On Saturday, the fair will play host to the 2014 Rapides Parish Pet and Dog Show. Pet Show contestants will be competing for trophies and ribbons in categories including: Cutest Pet, Best All Around Pet, Most Unusual Pet, Best Groomed Pet, Most Lovable Pet, Biggest Pet, Smallest Pet and Best Behaved Pet. There will be two divisions for the Dog Show: 4-H and non-4-H. 4-H members must enter their dogs in the 4-H division. Non-4-H members must enter their animals in the Non-4-H Division for ages 4 through 18). For the 4-H Dog Show, there will be a Juniors Division for grades 4 through 7 and a Seniors Division for grades 8 through 12.
The Mighty Thomas Carnival appears at the 2014 Rapides Parish Fair, in Alexandria, October 8th through 12th. The traveling show will provide thrilling rides, fun games, and tasty carnival treats at the Rapides fairgrounds for the 32nd straight year.
The Carnival brings with it a host of special promotion opportunities. One of the most popular is advanced ticketing, which is available at the offices of Cenla Broadcasting-KQID Radio, located at 1115 Texas Avenue in Alexandria. Patrons can purchase 56 tickets for $25.00, which is over 50% off the single ticket price. The advanced purchase pricing is available through noon on Thursday, October 9th.
The Carnival will open for normal hours of operation on Wednesday, October 8th at 4:00pm. Opening night will feature a one ticket discount on all rides, all night. The next day, beginning at 4:00pm, the Carnival will host KRRV Date night. Couples can acquire a Date Night sticker from KRRV and receive 2 for 1 admission to rides all night. Friday, Saturday and Sunday feature the ever popular Unlimited Ride option during designated hours. For $18.00, riders enjoy unlimited access to carnival rides from 3:00pm until 7:00pm on Friday night. On Saturday, unlimited rides are available for $20.00 during the hours of 11:00am until 5:00pm, and again for the same price on Sunday from 12:00pm until 8:00pm. Carnival patrons can receive an additional $2.00 off their unlimited ride pass by making a donation of non-perishable food items to the Food Bank of Central Louisiana. Distribution of donation armbands will begin at about 9:00am. Also, if a customer brings a food bank donation to the ticket box, the $2.00 discount will be allowed.
Though the location has changed, the 2014 Rapides Parish Fair promises to be one of the biggest and best yet! Don’t miss all the fun and excitement. Where’s the fair? It’s right up Highway 71 South! For more information, visit the Rapides Parish Fair on the web at www.therapidesparishfair.com.