Why the annual county fair section is always special

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

EIt’s one of my favorite times of the year – when the temperatures are cooler, the nights are pleasant, the mosquitoes are almost tolerable, and the Brazoria County Fair is going on.

In honor of the youth and to help you have fun at the fair, we have again printed a special section dedicated to the fair. It is inserted inside this issue.

Before I proceed, I need to thank all the advertisers that made the section possible. Without advertising, there is no section. Without advertising, there is no Bulletin.

So, coming from a non-agricultural background, the fair section is always a fun challenge. I have put together many of them, even before I started editing The Bulletin.

In 1979, I was employed at The Bay City Tribune as a writer and filled in as editor whenever needed. (That’s right off an old resume). That was my first journalism job right out of college, and it was a blast.

I worked with writers like me, and often we had to make it up as we went along. At a small daily back in those days, the writer had a lot of discretion (at least at the Tribune). If things went wrong, we’d hear about it, but when everything was smooth, we could do anything we wanted.

Well, almost anything. We had to write the news and cover meetings. And, once a year, we had to put together the fair section.

I found out quickly that the newest kid on the block got the task of pulling it all together. Once the advertising was sold, I held in one hand a bunch of lay-out sheet dummies, and, in the other, a folder that contained all the information that needed to be in the section.

We don’t have lay-out dummy sheets anymore. Those were the sheets that mapped out where the ads would be. The rest of the space could be used for writing and photos.

Now, everything is done on computer, and it’s a lot easier. Manual layout was for the birds. We just didn’t know it because pagination had not yet been invented.

The city editor / managing editor didn’t want to mess with it. The autonomy he gave us was great most of the time, but not so great now that I had to figure out what to do.

I had lay-out experience in college, so I didn’t start from scratch, but the entire section, which advertising sold the heck out of, had to be started from scratch. That’s why my editor didn’t want to handle it.

I spent many unpaid nights doing that section, and at the end, it didn’t even look that bad. I did notice a few spelling mistakes, but didn’t tell anyone about it in the newsroom. Apparently, nobody else noticed.

I was really proud of that section. It has long been lost, like much of my other early work. But, it turned out to be a rewarding project.

The people I worked with were great. I got more help than needed, and made a bunch of good friends. Then I went to the fair free of charge.

Going to the fair alone is not that much fun, though. It is a lot better to take someone with you who can drive home.

So, tackling the fair issue each year means a little more to me than putting information on the page. It takes me back to the days when, at the age of 23, I made the change from the big city to the small town, country lifestyle.

When I found out about a reporter position opening at the Tribune in the summer of 1979, I drove there from Houston on a Saturday. I interviewed for the job in the city editor’s car, as he drove to take a photo of a horse.

I don’t know what type of horse it was, or why he even had to take the photo. But he decided to have a little fun at my expense.

“If you can ride that horse around in a circle, I’ll hire you,” he said.

I had never been on the back of a horse. I Didn’t know the first thing about riding it, or even how to get on one.

So, after earning a college degree and preparing myself for a career, it all came down to whether I could ride a horse.

I pulled the owner aside and had him give me a few tips. I told him the truth, and he was very helpful.
Then, I got on the back of the horse and rode it around a while. I was hired on the spot.

Not a bad way to land a job – just a little horsing around.

Some Bulletin readers may have realized that I told this story before. But it was worth recycling for the fair issue.

Enjoy the fair, dear readers, and make sure you save the special section in this issue to use as your fair guide. It has a full fair schedule and a run-down on the entertainment.