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196th Jefferson County fair deemed a success

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The carnival rides and animal tricks have left the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The 196th Jefferson County Fair is over.

This year’s version of the longest consecutively running county fair in the nation attracted tens of thousands of visitors to see bicycle-riding bears, eat fried dough and try their luck at winning a stuffed animal at a multitude of carnival games.

Fair President Robert D. Simpson said that although the fair may not reach last year’s attendance numbers, it was still a success.

“It’s looking like we’re going to be down a few hundred this year,” he said. “Sunday is traditionally our slowest day.”

The fair attracted about 45,000 people through Saturday, with Thursday and Friday the busiest days.

“They both have a little bit of a different crowd,” Mr. Simpson said. “Thursday is an all-day crowd, and Friday is more of an evening crowd.”

He said that he already is thinking about how to improve next year’s fair, and said he plans to replace the Hall’s Bear Mountain Wildlife and Disc-Connected K9s shows to keep the entertainment fresh.

About 20 people showed up for the Sunday afternoon bear show that featured Siberian brown bears doing headstands, riding bicycles and skipping.

“After two weeks and 20 pounds of rewards, we have a bicycle-peddling bear,” said announcer Tepa Hall during the show’s first trick.

Her husband, James Hall, led the bears through each routine.

“My husband used to work with a man that worked with exotic animals, and he fell in love with bears,” Mrs. Hall said after the show.

She said bears are typically the size of a Beanie Baby when they are born. The act’s largest bear, Nemo, weighs in at 700 pounds and can play basketball.

“It starts when they are very young, because they have to be taught by 2 years of age because of their height and weight,” Mrs. Hall said.

The show, which clocked in under 30 minutes, featured five bears from 4 to 20 years old. During the winter months, the troupe returns home to northeast Texas.

“Siberian brown bears are desert bears,” Mrs. Hall said. “When they feel that first cold snap, they’ll start eating more heavily and grow a thicker coat.”

Several audience members headed to the show before browsing the carnival rides and food carts.

“It was good,” said Bethany A. Schermerhorn, Watertown. “I liked the last part where the bear was skipping. We’re going to go watch the dogs and ride the rides.”

Mary A. Moreton, Lorraine, said it was her family’s first day at the fair this year.

“This was really nice,” she said. “Right now, we’re going to go sightseeing and see what they’ve got going on.”

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