HARRODSBURG — While the laws of physics say no one person can be in two different places at the same time, that hasn’t stopped LeMayne Ellis, president of the Mercer County Fair & Horse Show, from trying.
After working all morning at his veterinary practice, it’s around noon when Ellis really goes to work preparing the grounds for more than 20,000 spectators, close to 500 horses, a full amusement park and scores of pretty young ladies, and men, competing in pageants every night of the week except Friday.
“Our motto is, ‘Bigger and Better Every Year,’” says Ellis as he apologizes for having to answer his fifth cell phone call in as many minutes, and as he runs out of his office and jumps on an ATV headed for the stables.
“Sure it’s busy, but we love it,” said Ellis. “And when you tell people in Mercer County something’s going to be ‘bigger and better,’ you’d better deliver.” But while the horse shows may be the most famous attribute of the Mercer County fair, they are not necessarily the most anticipated by everyone.
“People are crazy about our motor sports events, which I’m happy to say are growing,” Ellis said. “In fact we’ve got two new events this year.” The motor sports take place every night, but on Tuesday the fair will kick off its first ever dirt drag races, 4-wheeler mud runs and figure-8 mini-car races.
“These (dirt-drag and mud-run events) are both sure to thrill, “Ellis said. “The dirt drag races and 4-wheeler mud run is for kids under the age of 16. And when we say, ‘mud,’ we mean it. We’re going to load the track with tons of water and just let the mud fly.”
But every bit as exciting, said Ellis, will be the figure-8 mini-car race.
“The track is shaped like a figure eight, and that’s how they’ll be turning their laps. And if that sounds as if there’s the possibility for a ‘little’ contact, you’d be right.”
Like demolition derby cars, these vehicles have numerous safety features, including modifications made to the gas tanks.
“Anyone in this race is best advised to have their timing down. And anyone watching this race better get ready to have a lot of fun,” Ellis said.
Other popular events include Monday’s bumper-to-bumper pull-off, Thursday’s memorial diesel truck pull and Friday’s Clementsville-sanctioned truck pull, Ellis said.
“These events are a tradition, and whether you’re a full-time fan, or coming to your first event, these boys really put on a great show.”
Pageant coordinator Sheri Hamlin said she’s proud of Mercer’s reputation when it comes to fair pageants.
“Mercer is blessed with a whole lot of good-looking little ladies, boys and babies, who are not just attractive, but talented,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been to many other fairs, and the state fair in Louisville, and it’s always great when you hear people from all over the state tell us how renowned our fair is here in Mercer County.”
On Friday afternoon, the temperatures may have been pushing 100 degrees, but it didn’t stop the pre-teens from practicing for their pageant, which will take place 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We try to get in two full practice sessions before the big night,” Hamlin said.
Monday night’s teen competition kicks off the pageants at 7 p.m. and is followed by Miss Mercer County at 8:30 p.m. Pageants begin at 5:30 p.m. other nights, Hamlin said.
Horse Show Manager Brad Noel said he’s been coming to the Mercer County fair since he was a kid.
“This is great because I’m now getting a chance to do what I feel is my part in contributing to this tradition,” he said.
Late on Friday, Noel was assigning stalls to the horses.
“We’ve got 11 barns, which can hold up to 300 horses,” he said. “Think of it as a really big Holiday Inn, but for equines.”
Noel said William Shatner might be attending the horse show on Wednesday or Friday nights. He might even stop by both nights, he said.
LeMayne Ellis and his fellow fair board members tried something new this year to generate more revenue.
For $1,000, businesses can claim sponsorship of one night at the fair.
So far, all the days except for one have been taken.
“We’ve still got Tuesday open for anyone who would like corporate seating and having their name broadcast over the intercom all night long,” Ellis said.