Elotes and livestock: The Starr County Fair

05/09/2009 at 21:09 | Posted in Texas | Leave a comment
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Every year around the end of February, the Starr County Fair would take the City of Rio Grande, Texas by storm. It was three days of cultural debauchery. In a town so small, isolated nearly an hour from a city of over 15,000 people, this was indeed an event to behold.

The real kick-off came the weekend before the start of the fair at the Wild Game Dinner. For a mere $10 you were granted the privilege of wandering a prefab fair expo hall to taste every South Texas critter someone could get their hands/rifle/trap/boots on. Venison tamales, rattlesnake fritters, havalina sausage all handed out from folding tables by members of civic organizations. There was also the massive corner booth where “Los Ramirez Boys” from Ramirez Ford would pull an F-250 King Ranch Edition pickup into the building and dole out heaping paper boats of freshly boiled crawfish. They’d have to serve in waves so they would last the whole evening. And to wash it all down? A few-free-flowing kegs of Bud and Bud Light.

We’d sit at large banquet-style tables, elbow-to-elbow with neighbors, stuffing our faces with greasy game. Round after round picking up more animal bits in between waiting for our turn at the foamy kegs. A Valley orgy with a silent auction, all in preparation for the fair.

The first Friday of the fair was simply a flood of humanity. Families arriving after sundown would have to park blocks away on the curbs and shoulders of small roads in run-down neighborhoods. Then we’d wait in line saying hello to all our students who were always stunned to see us see them in something other than a uniform. In a break from the tradition of cruising in the county park, or in front of the Peter Piper Pizza in the Wal-Mart parking lot, the fellas would shine up their trucks and roll smoothly up San Benito. They felt at home in the naturally slow-moving traffic on a road choked with cars in both directions.

rgc0063Once inside, the smell of livestock, elotes, and funnel cake mixed with dust off the freshly shined boots of thousands of Starr Country residents was powerful. Unlike fairs in big cities, this one had a very strong focus on the agricultural activities. Show pigs, steer, rabbits, and chickens would be tirelessly groomed and readied all weekend in anticipation of judging. Proud FFA and 4H students would strut around with ribbons tacked to their chests like early prom mums.


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