'Modern' Fair began with volunteers in 1976
This is last in this series on the history of the Rockdale Fair, documented by the late Harold Love, who worked in many organizations in Rockdale, including the Fair Association. Fair Park remained relatively inactive as far as major celebrations through the 1960s until the mid 1970s.
The Rockdale Fair Association that we presently enjoy was formed for the specific and primary purpose of promoting youth activities in the Rockdale area.
William R. "Bill" Vogelpohl, who was instrumental in the development, was elected the first president.
Lee Roy Caffey was the first vice president and Lloyd Lamere was the first secretary-treasurer.
A massive job of renovating the old race track, building stables, enlarging and modernizing the youth exhibit building was undertaken after a signature loan from Rockdale State Bank was obtained.
Many hours of donated labor and equipment by individuals and organizations followed.
The first "new" Rockdale Fair was held in 1976. Over 7,000 people attended to see horse racing, the major event of that fair.
It was such a success that Fair organizers began planning the 1977 Fair the day after the 1976 event closed.
Gov. Dolph Briscoe attended that fair along with several sports celebrities. The 1977 Fair also featured the first youth livestock auction.
Lee Roy Caffey headed the organization in 1979 with Vogelpohl as vice president and Melvin Hirt as secretary.
The Miss Rockdale Fair Queen Contest, the Fair Parade, championship rodeo, arts and crafts, horse racing, horseshoe pitching, a domino tournament, beef and dairy breeder show, and the youth market livestock show and sale continued to gain interest and support.
At the time Love documented this history of the Rockdale Fair in 1980-81, the Fair officers were:
John Shoemake, president; Rod Spence, vice-president; James Birkhead, secretary; James Barton, treasurer.
There were 31 fair board members from all job market areas and all towns and communities of Milam County.
Board meetings were held the third Tuesday night of each month.
In 1980 and 81 the Fair Board, working with the City of Rockdale, added a new 6-foot chain link fence and additional restrooms to the park.
The city provided water to the show barn , provided grounds maintenance and named a Fair Park Committee to study and make recommendations to the City Council.
In 1983 George Strait was the Fair headliner and more than 13,000 people packed Fair Park.
Research: The Rockdale Fair & Fair Grounds 1980-81 by Harold Love.