Anthony Mendoza popped a balloon with his first dart Saturday at the Gregg County Fair, but he was unsuccessful in his next six more tosses trying to win a large stuffed toy for his date, Emily Martinez .
The game operator handed Martinez a stuffed rose anyway — another memory for the Henderson couple making what they said was a return trip to the fair in Longview.
“I like it,” Martinez said.
“It’s a shared experience that’s unforgettable with family and friends and loved ones,” Mendoza said of the Gregg County Fair, which is marking its 70th year of bringing amusements, rides and food to Longview.
The fair opened Friday and continues nightly through Saturday.
As a teenager, Kim Daniels said she was attracted to the fair each year for the amusements and familiar faces.
Though she’s since moved from Longview to Kilgore, she doesn’t miss the event, though she enjoys the favors while her grandchildren amuse themselves.
“As a teenager, I loved coming here and riding and rides and just to see the people from the community,” Daniels said. “Now, it’s all about the food.”
Young people took to the rides and games as the smells of carnival food wafted through the air at the Longview Exhibit Building and Fairgrounds.
“I love the fair food,” Daniels said. She was making her second visit to the fair in as many days, still smiling from enjoying a seafood box she had from vendor Frieda’s Kitchen, which also operates a food truck in Longview.
“It was amazing,” Daniels said of the seafood, “and she has stuffed turkey legs, and I’m waiting to get mine now.”
As for her grandchildren’s enjoyment of the fair, Daniels said, “I just love it. They have so much fun, and they get really, really tired and go to sleep early.”
Ani Honaker, 15, of Longview tried and tried to beat a game in which fair enthusiasts use a stick with a rope to pick up a glass soda bottle and stand it up on a slanted surface.
“It rolls off every time you try to pick it up,” Ani said as her friends kept trying.
It was her fifth year coming to the Gregg County Fair, and she comes back every year because of the rides and “definitely all of the food,” she said.
Edward Ellis of Union Grove has been coming to the fair for about 15 years. He took a break for lemonade and a corn dog while his teenage children found their own fun.
“It’s very good lemonade. On 100-degree temperature (days), you need lemonade,” Ellis said.
He added that corn dogs cooked at the fair make for the best ones.
“I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s because they make them right here,” Ellis said of the corn dogs. “When you buy the ones in the store, they’re already pre-made and you just eat them up, but put them in that grease and let them get hot — it just makes them really crispy and makes them really good.
“It’s just a tradition,” Ellis said of the annual fair. “You come out here and just ride the rides and see the expo and then just enjoy your day, but it’s really hot today, though.”