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ARKANSAS-OKLAHOMA STATE FAIR

By Alex Golden / Times Record / agolden@swtimes.com

The Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair is in full swing with all the rides, food, animals and more that keep people coming back year after year — and a few new additions.

This is David Smith Jr.’s first time performing at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair, although his 21 years as a “human cannonball” have taken him to 15 other countries and all over the United States. A second-generation cannonball, he is ejected from a “cannon” into the air onto a net.

“At the end of my workday, people clap,” Smith said. “It’s a rare and unique experience.”

The job comes with a fear factor and the occasional injury, but Smith is addicted.

“I really do love my job,” he said.

Also new this year is the Agriculture Education Center, designed to teach kids about where they get their food, said Celeste Breeden, who runs the center. The kids can gather eggs and pick apples.

The kids will take their gatherings to the “bank” for “Arvest bucks” that they can exchange for healthy snacks donated by the RiverValley Food Bank, Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair Chairman Kelly Clark said.

Among the fair’s new food vendors is a new Mexican food booth with tacos, burritos and quesadillas on the menu.

Owner Rene Lerma has been in the food business for 20 years and already owned two other booths. He noticed there was not any Mexican food.

John Hanschen, owner of the Mighty Thomas Carnival, runs the carnival rides side of the fair. He’s been doing it for 42 years.

“You always see something different you didn’t expect to see,” he said.

The ferris wheel, the Century Wheel, has remained one of the most popular rides through the years, largely because four to six people can sit together, and families ride it together.

About 1,500 animals, including cows, pigs and chickens, to name a few, will be at the fair this week, Livestock Chairman Steve Weaver said. The fair added dairy goats to the livestock exhibition this year.

Vendors were also setting up Friday at the Expo Center, and the tables included evertying from clothes and jewelry to military recruitment to jams and jellies homemade by Muldrow couple Darron and Gail Johnson. Bacon jalepeno and monkey butter (banana, pineapple, coconut) are a few favorites.

There will also be musical entertainment each night except for Sunday at the expo.

The Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair will be open through Sept. 30 and is at 4400 Midland Blvd. in Fort Smith.