ELWOOD — The early months of 2022 were marked by destructive fires that caused property and personal loss, widely felt throughout Gosper County. Despite the hardships, residents took time to celebrate one of those simple joys of summer, a county fair.
The festivities kicked off on Tuesday, July 26 with the first of the 4-H interviews and shows. 4-Hers were interviewed about their projects and judged by local residents.
On Wednesday, the Lions Club Three Person Scramble Golf Tournament took place at Lakeside Golf Course.
For the 4-H members, it was weigh-in day for a variety of animals; livestock judging took place later in the evening.
Thursday saw more 4-H animal shows, including the hog, sheep, poultry and companion animal shows.
It was also the opening night for the 49th Elwood Rodeo, with the grand entry and crowning of the Elwood Rodeo Queen taking place.
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There was a somber moment of reflection prior to the rodeo events. In a message from the Elwood Rodeo Club President, Brenna Fong, “This has been a difficult year, for our Club, for our community and for our area. In spite of this, we have been blessed exceptional generosity and continued support.”
Rodeo announcer Clay Patton asked for a moment of silence for long time Elwood Rodeo Club member Jeremy Eidson, who died at the age of 43 on Nov. 27, 2021.
“He was known for his easy-going manner and work ethic. He was a member of the Elwood Rodeo Club for 22 years and even after being diagnosed with MS and experiencing mobility issues, he could be found in the concession stand with Julie and their kids, always smiling and happy to help. His friendship will be missed forever, he may be gone but he will never be forgotten,” the Elwood Rodeo Club stated.
The program also highlighted the loss of Elwood Fire Chief Darren Krull, who was killed in a “zero-visibility” accident on April 7 while responding to a wildfire that would eventually grow to 35,000 acres and prompt the evacuation of several southwest Nebraska communities.
Fifteen days after the April 7 wildfire, another wildfire broke out that also forced the evacuation of several southwestern communities and burned over 40,000 acres.
“Darren was a great supporter of the Elwood Rodeo and always volunteered to cover the rodeo as an EMT, lending his considerable experience and knowledge to provide emergency medical assistance to any injured contestant or attendee,” the Elwood Rodeo Club stated, “We are thankful for his many years of working with us and attending our rodeo.”
Thursday was also the opening day for the Elwood Lions/Gosper County Carnvial.
Gosper County’s carnival is unique because it is hosted by area residents themselves, rather than a carnival being hired to come to town.
This dates back to 1982, when the carnival scheduled to appear at the Gosper County Fair pulled out a month before the fair was to start.. The Gosper County fair board scrambled to find an alternative.
They settled on hosting one themselves and a month later hosted the Gosper County carnival on their own. Since then it has become a proud tradition among the residents of Gosper County.
Hosting the carnival is no small task, over 300 volunteers are needed each night to help operate rides, manage concessions, trade tickets for prizes and run different types of games. There are 150 people working on a shift, the first from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and the second from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.
Setting up the rides has been made easier by the construction of a new building on the fairgrounds that house the merry-go-rounds. The building was built in 2015 and has proven very useful to the Elwood Lions Club.
The carnival will usually gross around $36,000 over the three days that it runs. This money then goes toward scholarships the Elwood Lions Club awards and to other activities it sponsors.
The Elwood Rodeo’s final night was on Friday, while the carnival continued this day and held its final night on Saturday.