Seale Labor Day Festival entertains with bands, beef chili cook-off

Buoyant gyroscopes, beef chili and the blues are among the fare festival goers can expect at the Old Russell County Court House Labor Day Fair in Seale, Ala.

The Labor Day Fair, located at 91 Longview Street, kicked off its fourth annual event Monday with dozens of craft vendors, food purveyors and local bands. The fair, which was resurrected in 2009, was a long standing tradition until it closed in 1999. Click here to see a gallery of photos from the fair

Gary Head, one of the organizers of the fair, declined to say why it was closed for nearly ten years before it was revitalized. However, he said organizers are now using the fair as a way to keep up the court building.

"The community really loved [the fair] and we wanted to bring it back for them," Head said. "One hundred percent of the funds we raise from booth rentals goes to the court house. We rent it out for weddings, family reunions and other events like that, and we're trying to build an elevator in there. Right now caterers and bands have to lug everything up the stairs during events."

Parents who plan on attending the fair will find more than bouncy castles and giant gyroscopes. Inside the court house, local archeologist Dent Williams has hundreds of sharks teeth, dinosaur bones and arrowheads on display.

Williams helped dig up many of the fossils in the 1980s, all of which come from Russell County. He said he got started when an official at the court house asked him to collect sharks' teeth and arrowheads for a wall display. His collection now includes hadrosaur, plesiosaur and megalodon bones.

"Most of the originals are held at Columbus State University," Williams said. "And most of the bones come from the Cretaceous period. You don't get fossils like this unless the dinosaurs were near the coast line, and back then the ocean reached up to U.S. 80, and even into parts of Mississippi and Tennessee."

Williams' work as an associate researcher with Columbus State has led him to have a greater appreciation for how natural history plays a part in our lives.

"It's interesting, because a lot of this still affects us today," Williams said. "Like this [ammonite], these keep the acidity of our soil down."

The Labor Day Fair is also playing host to the First Annual Beef Chili Cook-Off, hosted by the Russell County Cattleman's Association.

Jo Ann Laney, a representative of the Cattleman's Association, said thirteen chefs would be participating in this year's event.

"We've charged each participant $10 to bring in a crockpot," Laney said. "And then everyone who wants to judge has to pay $5 and will write down the number of their favorite on a ticket. At the end, we'll count them up and whoever wins will get $100."

Laney said the Association hopes to expand the cook-off to include cake and pie competitions. Those competitions may begin as soon as next year's fair.

Fair-goers can also take pictures with a firetruck and mascot from the Seale Alabama Fire Department, which is attempting to raise $50,000 in donations for renovations to its Ridge Road Station.

"The building isn't big enough to house some of our firetrucks from the 1980s and stay up to code," Seale Firefighter Will Lewis said. "So we're asking for help from the community and hoping to entertain some at the same time."

Heather Tharpe, another organizer of the Labor Day Fair, said families should also attend for the line up of Southern Rock, blues and country bands. Performers include Burnunit, The Big Injun Band, Wayne Veal & Class Act and Kaitlin Hill. The fair is open until 4 p.m., Monday.

"It's good family fun, free parking and free admission," Tharpe said.

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