Oman Family Has Three Generation History With The State Fair Of Texas
published: September 16th 2011
by: Martha Hollida Garrett
John Bill Oman first attended the State Fair of Texas (SFT) at the age of “12 or 13 years old” with his parents, but little did he realize the impact this institution would have on him, his daughters and now his grandchildren.
At the time, the young boy from Avoca, Texas attended simply as a spectator and recalls, “I loved the livestock exhibits.” A few years later, in 1960, he attended the SFT Honor Awards Banquet, an annual fair event held to recognize state youth leaders. His position that year, as state vice president for the Future Farmers of Ameri-ca (now known as the FFA) earned him a seat at this prestigious banquet that still happens today. Several years later, his future wife, Belinda (Burkman) Oman sat at the same banquet, as a state 4-H officer. She also exhibited a market steer or two at the fair during her 4-H career, and has fond memories of stiff competition.
Fast forward to 1978. The young Oman family drove through the gates of the grounds of the State Fair with the first of many animals to be exhibited. Through the years, John Bill and Belinda would witness each of their five daughters – Jennifer, Jessica, Judith, Johnna, and Ingrid – exhibit and garner many ribbons, memories and, most importantly, life experiences. They had encouraged their daughters to participate in livestock shows because they saw it as a way to build character, learn to work and develop a competitive, but gracious spirit.
The family’s first major SFT Grand Championship came in 1983, when Jessica won the grand champion steer title. Just one year later, Jennifer and Judith returned to win reserve grand champion steer and champion Polled Hereford steer titles, respectively.
“To me it was a tremendous thrill when Jessica had the champion steer. I just couldn’t believe it for our family. Then the next year’s wins were like icing on the cake,” is how Oman, now 69-years-old, remembers those days.
For 20 consecutive years, the Omans exhibited junior steers with the occasional heifer and market hog at the State Fair. Johnna and Ingrid both won reserve breed championships and Judith was honored with the top showmanship award in the junior heifer show. Ingrid, the youngest of the five girls, led her last heifer through the gate in the fall of 1998.
Over the course of the years, two daughters, Jen-nifer and Johnna, were honored at that same banquet that their father and mother attended years earlier; Jennifer, as a state 4-H officer in 1985, and Johnna as a state FFA officer in 1995. Johnna and Ingrid also received SFT scholarships.
It would seem that the family’s State Fair history had come full circle, but that was not the case. The circle now includes John Bill and Belinda’s grandchildren.
In 2005, Emily June Kelley, daughter of the oldest Oman girl, Jennifer, exhibited her first steer at the State Fair, winning a class. It wasn’t long before she repeated history. In 2008, 30 years after the Oman girls began showing steers at the State Fair and 25 years after her aunt’s win, Emily June received the same handshake signifying the top prize.
Ingrid and her husband, Jacob Tusa, who raise and sell club calves, had a hand in selling both this champion steer and the reserve grand champion that same year, which was exhibited by Joelle Foster. Jennifer’s other daughter, Laurel, also exhibited a British division winner that year.
This year, Jessica’s son, Jack, and her daughter, Rachael, will exhibit animals at the State Fair for the first time. But they’ll be in a different barn, since they will be exhibiting in the junior market lamb show.
While it will be unfamiliar territory for the two youngsters, the lessons learned by their mom and aunts will still be the same. Those lessons, combined with the memories made over the past 50- plus years, make the State Fair a great experience for the entire Oman family. “I love the State Fair,” is how Oman summed up his feelings for the annual event and the impact it has had on his family’s lives.