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Fairgrounds Manager Bryan Jenkins has devoted 33 years of service to Cleveland County, all working at the fairgrounds.
“I started as a maintenance man at the county fairgrounds in 1987,” Jenkins said. “Later, I was moved to maintenance supervisor and then in 2014, I moved to the manager’s position.”
The number of events hosted at the fairgrounds increased greatly in his years working for the county, he said.
“Used to, we could set up a week in advance because there were very few events. The 4-H and the Extension Homemakers were our main clients.”
To deal with the growing demand, fairgrounds staff has increased from two maintenance men and a part-time secretary to three administrative assistants and three maintenance men in addition to Jenkins.
“We have been fortunate that the county commissioners have made improvements over the years, not only in the buildings, but the equipment that we have available to make this an attractive and inviting place,” Jenkins said. “Through their contributions to this facility, we’ve been able to improve it, and the community has seen it and want to use the building as well.”
Ongoing improvements include updating the RV park, but the vision for the future of the fairgrounds includes an expo center and an amphitheater, a community pond and a children’s park.
“When I first went to work here we had a couple of poultry shows,” Jenkins said. “We lost those for a time. Now we have four smaller poultry shows and one large one in the fall that attracts people from all over the nation.
“Our fairgrounds are becoming more and more known for bringing in national events. We have dog shows, goat shows, poultry shows. We’re really growing on the national scene.”
While farmers are still vital to activities at the fairgrounds, interest has expanded to include people who are reconnecting with animals, their food, or their roots whether it’s cooking, canning and quilting or raising smaller species of livestock.
“There has been a resurgence of interest in getting back to some American traditions and growing our own food, even while technology has greatly improved some of the ways those things are done,” County Commissioner Darry Stacy said. “We’ve responded to that interest, and as the fairgrounds continues to grow in our capacity to host events, we’ll be able to address those needs, whether it’s hosting a home and garden show or drawing in more livestock events.”
Jenkins said that forward thinking helps fairgrounds staff accommodate the growing need for event venues.
“It’s not just farmers anymore,” he said. “With the poultry, they can raise them in the backyard. The poultry shows are bred show birds similar to the dog shows where they are people’s pets.”
And wherever they’re from, those people want nice amenities such as the improved RV park and other facilities.
“When we have goat shows or even livestock shows, those are those people’s pets too. These are breeding animals that they use to produce more offspring, and they’re part of the family,” Jenkins said. “They take good care of those animals.”
Jenkins understands farm life and livestock shows because he has deep roots in the county. He lives in Goldsby and farms part-time, helping his father who is a Cleveland County farmer.
“Bryan is well-suited to manage the fairgrounds,” Stacy said. “He’s been personally connected to Cleveland County and these fairgrounds his entire life. We’re lucky to have him.”
Jenkins is active in the local tractor shows and collects toy-sized John Deere tractors.
“My dad used to work for John Deere,” Jenkins said. “He worked out here on the end of Main Street. I’m also a member of the antique tractor club.”
The Canadian River Old Iron Club (CROIC) hosts the tractor pulls at the annual Cleveland County Free Fair. CROIC is part of the National Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
Retired now as a firefighter, Jenkins volunteered with the Goldsby Volunteer Fire Department for 35 years.
“I just wanted to help my community and improve the community I live in,” he said.
Jenkins graduated from Norman High School in 1980, then attended Oscar Rose College, which is now Rose State University, where he earned a business degree. He enjoys living in a rural community.
“Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “Of course Goldsby is like all of the other rural communities, it’s growing.”