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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Roscoe Race Track and the Nolan County Fair

Modern chariot racing in Utah.  The chariot race was one of many racing events at the Roscoe fairgrounds.
We Roscoans are rightfully proud of our three major civic events of the year: the Spring Fling in April, the Independence Day Celebration in July, and the West Texas Wind Festival in October.  All are well attended and have steadily grown to become not just local but  regional in scope. 

With the city’s lean years in the eighties and nineties, one might assume that these recent annual events are unprecedented for Roscoe, but, as I discovered not too long ago, there was a time when our fair city put on a major annual celebration that has been largely forgotten—the Nolan County Fair—which in the early days was held in Roscoe, or more specifically, just east of Roscoe at what was then known as the Fairgrounds, located just south of Broadway across from the American Legion post.  

The focal point of the Fairgrounds—and its greatest drawing card—was the race track, reputed to be one of the finest around.  Recently, I examined the 1915 Nolan County Fair’s program, which had been sitting unnoticed on a shelf in the museum for years.  Its contents are fascinating and reveal much about the life of the town back then.

As one would expect, there were several contests typical of county fairs: ladies’ crafts with separate competitions for embroidery, crocheting, and tatting; best cooked and baked dishes, flowers and pot plants, art, garden produce, even a pretty baby contest. Cash prizes were in the $3 range for first prizes with second and third prizes correspondingly less.

Not all the prizes were money, however.  The award for the best jar of homemade sour pickles, for example, was a bucket of Seal Brand Coffee from Dodds’ Grocery along with ten tickets to the Gem Theater, Roscoe’s silent moving-picture house.  The best loaf of salt-rising bread got ten gallons of oil and five gallons of gasoline from J. E. Russell’s garage, and so on.

There was also an extensive stock show with $10 prizes going to the best draft stallion, gaited stallion, and all-purpose stallion, $8 to the best jack and $5 to the best jennet, and $7.50 to the best span of mules along with numerous other categories.  Cattle categories (Jersey bull, cow, heifer; Durham bull, cow, heifer, etc.) had $5 first prizes and $2.50 second prizes as did the hogs (red boar, sow; Poland China boar, sow; etc.).

In addition, the organizers engaged a big carnival from outside that employed 150 people and had equipment that took seven railcars to transport.  Midway on the Roscoe fairgrounds must have been quite a sight.

But back to the races—at the beginning of the racing section of the program, the Nolan County Fair Association addresses horsemen with the following enticement to participate:

“We have a splendid track, and it will be in the finest condition for this event.  Plenty of sheds, stalls, and other conveniences have been provided, and every courtesy possible will be extended to those making entries.”

Racing took place on all three days of the fair with the largest prizes on the first and third days.  The top purse was $150 for the 2:20 pace or trot on the first day and $125 on the third day.  That was quite a chunk of change in a time when laborers worked for 15¢-20¢ an hour.  The half-mile race had a $100 purse on both the first and third days.  Purses were divided 50%, 30%, 20% for first, second, and third places. 

The first and third days also had a quarter-mile saddle horse race ($25 purse), and a chariot race ($25).  I can’t help but wonder what the chariot race was like.  I would love to have seen one.   

There were also separate races for motorcycles ($10), bicycles ($5), mules ($5), and burros ($5).  Boys ages 7-10 could compete in the turkey roping where the prize was the turkey, and boys ages 10-13 had a pig roping where the prize was the pig.  There was also a goat roping contest ($10).  

In short, the Nolan County Fair must have been quite an event for Roscoe, its citizens, and the county at large.  It is a shame that, as far as I know, no photos of it are still in existence.  

The Roscoe Historical Museum would love to have any photos of the race track, fairgrounds, or any aspect of the Nolan County Fair when it was in Roscoe.  If you or anyone you know has any, please notify me so that I could make a copy or copies for the museum.  

The entire program for the 1915 Nolan County Fair is available for viewing online by clicking here.  Note: As a .pdf file, it requires Adobe Reader for viewing.  To rotate the view, right-click and then click "Rotate Clockwise" until the pages are upright. 



Carolina Perez sinks a jumper against the Lady Cats last night.
The Plowgirls are now 2-0 in district play and 13-8 on the season after putting away Westbrook in Plowboy Gym last night 31-19.  The Plowgirls led all the way with the halftime score 15-9.  High scorers were Shelby Brown with 9 points and Faith Boren with 8.
The Plowgirls won their district opener against Hermleigh in Hermleigh on Friday 75-34 with Boren scoring 20 points and Eva Aguayo 13. 
The previous weekend, the Plowgirls won two and lost two in the Eula tournament, losing to Munday 42-22, then defeating Hawley 38-36 and Paducah 38-35, before losing to Eastland 50-26.
Their next opponent is Ira in Ira on Friday evening.  The Plowboys begin district play there following the girls’ game.  



If you missed KTAB-TV’s weekend news report on developments regarding the prospective business growth in Nolan County due to the oil industry, you can view it on the Big Country website by clicking here.  It lasts 2 minutes and 53 seconds.



Plowboy freshman running back Vincent Pantoja has been named The Abilene Reporter-News Newcomer of the Year for the recently completed football season.  To see the article, click here.


The Texas High School Coaches Association in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps is proud to recognize Jose Rangel to the first-team boys' football Academic All-State team for 2012-2013.  It also awards honorable mention status to Plowboy Brant Burnett. 



City Manager Cody Thompson reported on a number of issues at the monthly City Council meeting in City Hall last night.  

Bids have opened on the five houses receiving financial assistance from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.  Last year, Roscoe applied for and was approved for the assistance for up to five older houses that were to be demolished and be replaced by new ones.  The five new houses will be approximately 1,157 square feet, and bids ranged from $59,500 to $70,000.  Here are the houses to be replaced:

               Address:                         Owner:
               307 N. Cypress St.        Herminia Garcia
               1206 10th St.                  Maria Orozco
               104 Hickory St.             Lupe Kidd
               901 Hickory St.             Eugene Griffith
               500 Hickory St.             Brad Willman

There has been some delay in Austin of the review of the proposed construction of the Roscoe's reverse-osmosis water treatment plant, which will unfortunately push back the projected August completion date.

An RV Park is planned on the recently sold Emerson property near the City and County barn by the baseball field.  The Council discussed revising city rules governing RV parks. 

The McVeys have bought city property on the north side and have begun work to establishing a nursery there.

Brick work has been completed at Old Town Park and the Community Center although some electrical work remains to be done. 

The contractor for the new north side lift station will begin in a week or so. 

Swimming pool contractors are being contacted to repair the filtration system that caused the pool to be shut down in August.   



Last Thursday's snow of an inch or less was melted and gone by 11am.
A light snow on Thursday was followed by several days of cool weather with lows dropping below freezing and highs of 50°F or less.  Then, rain was forecast for yesterday, today, and tomorrow with chances of precipitation reaching 90%.  So far, the results have been disappointing with only about a tenth of an inch.  However, more may be on the way.  Whatever we get will be welcome as it is pretty dry around here.  

The forecast is for clearing skies and warmer weather with highs in the fifties tomorrow and the sixties on Friday.  Then another cold front should move through Saturday, dropping weekend lows into the twenties and highs in the forties.  


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