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The Silver Spur Square Dancing Club will offer demonstrations illustrating a variety of classic folk dances.

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Preserving Heritage at the County Fair

'It's Not Just a Fair, It's a Tradition' Theme of 2023 Cleveland County Fair

Preserving heritage is one component of the annual Cleveland County Fair—the largest county fair in the state. While the fair has evolved over time to include the latest in carnival rides and exhibits entries to keep up with modern technology, tradition is still an important element of the fair.

The 2023 Cleveland County Fair theme, “It’s not just a fair, it’s a tradition,” is more than a nod to the past. From the Apache Blackfoot Society’s prayer ceremony to the Canadian River Old Iron Club’s tractor pull and children’s activities as well as livestock shows, canning, quilting, baking and more, cultural heritage is a core component of the county fair every year.

Now in its second year at the Cleveland County Fair, the Apache Blackfoot Society, “Indian Ceremony Under the Tent” will run from 1- 4 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the four-day fair.

“It’s not a pow wow,” said Headsman Treymane Wells. “These are culture songs. They are prayer songs.”

People are free to quietly come and go as the society performs a variety of sacred ceremonies.

“We are Apache. We still have ceremonies, and we are still here,” Treymane said. “Everyone is welcome to come and watch. We ask that there are no pictures and no video or audio recordings.”

Treymane is joined by other headsmen: Philip Wetselline, Sam Redbone and Herbie Pebeashy. The headsmen oversee the ceremonies.

“We’ve been doing this for years. These have been handed down. This is the 52nd year for us but I don’t how long it’s been going on,” Treymane said. “It’s a blessing for us to get out and for the world to see us.”

Farm tradition is prevalent on many levels at the county fair. The Canadian River Old Iron Club, popularly known as CROIC, hosts tractor pulls and children’s activities on the north side of the fairgrounds campus. Families can take a step back in time with CROIC’s hand’s on, kid-friendly activities that including a hayride, trackless train, corn grinder and sheller, and washtub.

“The kids’ activities go back to the rub-board washing tub and a hand pump. This is how the water comes out of the ground; you didn’t have a faucet,” explained Fair Board and Tractor Club member Jerry Calvert. “This lets kids experience life before video games and cell phones.”

All of the children’s and tractor pull activities are free.

“The tractor pull is a competition among the tractors from 1959 and earlier, so it’s antique and vintage tractors,” Calvert said. “The tractor pull is a fair tradition.”

Antique tractors are also on display throughout the entire fair.

“We offer things at the Cleveland County Fair that not every fair offers,” Jerry said. “We have people come from across the state to participate in the state kiddie tractor pull and we also have the county kiddie tractor pull for kids in Cleveland County.”

CROIC activities aren’t the only interactive way families can connect with tradition at the Cleveland County Fair.

The Silver Spur Square Dancing demonstration illustrates variety of classic folk dances. Popular in the 1800s, square dancing has seen a revival—and the Silver Spur group keeps it alive in Cleveland County by sharing their dances at the county fair each year, starting with a demonstration and then inviting the audience to join in on the fun. Costumes vary from simple to elaborate but keep the spirit of the tradition alive.

“We love to share the fun and excitement of square dancing with the crowd at the Cleveland County Free Fair,” said Silver Spur Secretary Melissa Thomas. “We hope to see everyone there.”

The 4-H Cloggers also demonstrate a popular and physically demanding folk dance.

Tradition is also preserved at the county fair through exhibits showing quilts, canning, baked goods, crafts and agricultural products. Quilts have become an artform, and while the beauty of the past is maintained, many quilts today are machine quilted, a nod to both tradition and current technology. Categories of the competitions allow for these differences recognizing hand and machine quilted, pieced and appliqued, tacked or tied.

Traditional canning has made a come-back with backyard gardening on the rise, and many people these days are enjoying having control of their food supply. The fair is a great place to see beautifully canned foods and connect with people who enjoy canning and food preservation.

From crafts and baking to fine arts and livestock shows, the fair has a lot to offer beyond the midway. This year’s fair will be Sept. 7-10 at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, 615 E. Robinson St., Norman. Parking and admission are free.

  • The Apache Blackfoot Society will present “Indian Ceremony Under the Tent” from 1- 4 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the four-day fair.
  • The Canadian River Old IronClub will host tractor pulls and children's activities during the fair.
  • Don't forget to check out the livestock shows at this year's fair!
  • The Silver Spur Square Dancing Club will offer demonstrations illustrating a variety of classic folk dances.
  • Two judges look over canned goods during last year's fair.