RANCH, ROAD ATHLETES; FARMERS, TRUCK DRIVERS TO RACE CLOCK AT FAIR.
For more than 60 years, the Antelope Valley Fair's Rural Olympics have been one of the valley's strongest traditions, with unusual competition and dedicated contestants.
For Len Griffin and his family it has become a way of life.
Griffin, a local rancher, came to the Antelope Valley in 1946 and began setting up arenas for the fair.
``Back then everything was built out of hay: the arenas, the stands, all of it,'' said Griffin. ``It was a strange job because you were working but it was fun.
``In 1946, there wasn't much else to do. There were big tubs of beer and soft drinks, and everyone just had fun.''
For 10 years, he competed at loading hay, and his team won seven times.
``We had to do it without the machines they have now, but I was hooked,'' Griffin said. ``I kept saying it was my last year, but I kept going back, like we all do.''
Later Griffin served on the fair committee, and he has been a judge of the Rural Olympics for years.
``I had so much fun, I just couldn't walk away from it,'' he said.
In 1977, Griffin's daughter, Marleen, took up the Rural Olympics torch as a competitor. She entered the tractor stake race.
``I got into it because of my dad,'' Marleen Griffin said. ``We had an available tractor, so it all just fell together. I enjoyed it so much that I kept going back.''
Twenty-one years later, she is still competing in the tractor stake race for women drivers. They race through a course marked by 10 stakes set 13-1/2 feet apart.
This year, with partner Ray McCormick, she also is entered in two antique car races for two-person teams.
In a Model T race, the team races the car around an oval course, removes the right tire, rolls or carries it around the car and then replaces it before a final lap. In a potato race, the passenger leans out the car window and spears potatoes while the driver steers through a course.
``Ray and I were practicing for the potato race and he says, `Can you believe two adults' doing this?' I just said no, but it's fun,'' Marleen Griffin said.
``I was really proud when Marleen entered,'' her father remarked. ``It's hard to get contestants because everyone is just too busy nowadays, but most of us have been in it for a long time. We look forward to it each year and put a lot into it. It's rewarding.''
The Rural Olympics will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Redman Grandstand Arena. Tickets are $12 and $15.
Fifteen events make up the Rural Olympics this year.
The hay-loading competition uses three-person teams, and each aims for the fastest time racing a mechanical field loader down a course, picking up 72 bales of hay and stacking them at specific locations.
Drivers in another contest must travel a course and then back a closed-body, box-type van, 35 feet long and 8 feet wide, through a chute without touching the sides.
Drivers of rigs at least 60 feet long must maneuver around a chute and then back through it without touching the sides.
Gravel truck drivers have their own contest - maneuvering through chutes, unhooking a trailer, dumping gravel, reconnecting a trailer and backing through the chutes.
There also is a tractor race with sickle bar, and there is a race for antique two-cylinder tractors.
The hay squeeze is the newest addition to the games. Contestants use a machine to split a stack of hay and restack it.
In a comic hay-stealing contest, a team of two loads as many bales of hay as possible into a pickup truck and races across the finish line within 2-1/2 minutes.
Youths in 4-H, Junior Grange and Future Farmers of America form teams for a popular contest, a tug of war. There also is a tugging contest for adults.
The farmers' handicap race is another one popular with an audience. The winning car in the Model T race is pitted against a mule.
The hay-loading competition is the big finale.The winning team gets $2,500. The prize is $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third.
For more information on the Olympics or any event at the fair, call (805) 948-6060.
ANTELOPE VALLEY FAIR AT A GLANCE
ENTERTAINMENT: Monster trucks, 7:30 p.m., $12, $15. Pablo Cruise, 8, 10 p.m. Hypnotist Suzy Haner, 6:30, 9 p.m. The Artful Dodger, 9, 10:30 p.m. Bressler, 8, 10 p.m.
HOURS: 4 p.m.-midnight.
SPECIAL: Kiwanis Junior Livestock Auction begins at 9 a.m.
ENTERTAINMENT: Figure 8 racing, 7:30 p.m., $12, $15. The Shirelles, 8, 10 p.m. Hypnotist Suzy Haner, 6:30, 9 p.m. American Made Band, 9, 10:30 p.m. Bressler, 8, 10 p.m.
HOURS: 4 p.m.-1 a.m.
Carnival rides, farm animals, flower exhibits, handicraft displays, photo exhibit, gem and mineral displays, bungee jumping, antique farm equipment, petting zoo, Hoopla the Clown, Short Attention Span Circus, Discovering Science stage shows and hands-on exhibits.
ADMISSION: General admission, $5; children 6-15 and adults 55 and older, $3; children under 6 and active duty military personnel with identification, free.
LOCATION: Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 155 E. Ave. I.
INFORMATION: (805) 948-6060.
PHOTO (Color) Marleen Griffin will be racing her tractor Saturday at the A.V. Fair. Her father, Len, right, will be among the Rural Olympics judges.
Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News
BOX: ANTELOPE VALLEY FAIR AT A GLANCE (See text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 3, 1998|
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