Early September is upon us and that means only one thing for folks who live or who grew up in Kiowa County—it’s time for the Kiowa County Fair & Rodeo. The annual event, now more than 100 years running, includes three main days of everything fun you could imagine doing. Everyone has something they love about the Kiowa County Fair. But, just in case you can’t think of a single thing to love, the Kiowa County Fair Board has come up with a unique addition to this year’s events—the DinoEncounters are coming!
Things actually start on Sunday, September 3rd this year as the Kiowa County Riding Club will sponsor an open gymkhana event.
By Wednesday, September 6th, the 4-H and FFA kids will have to have their livestock in place including a vet check before entering the pavilion. The Exhibit Hall will also open for anyone and everyone to bring their open class entries.
The 4-H and FFA Goat Show will be at 6:00 pm.
SECCC Barrel Racing is scheduled in the arena at 6:00 pm on Wednesday night as well.
Thursday and Friday mornings start out early during the Fair as the good folks at the Eads Chamber of Commerce will be cooking up the bacon and eggs and pancakes—served free for all who can tolerate those early-morning—but free we might add—adventures. Breakfast starts both days at 6:00 am.
Thursday, September 7th, will include the 4-H and FFA Swine Show at 9:00 am, 4-H and FFA Beef Show at Noon; 4-H and FFA Sheep Show at 2:00 pm; and 4-H and FFA Round Robin Showmanship competition at 3:00 pm.
Two special events sure to be entertaining on Thursday includes the Dog Trials competition in the arena at 1:00 pm and the very popular Team Roping competition at 6:00 pm in the arena.
Friday, September 8th, is reserved for the big 4-H & FFA Livestock Sale starting at 9:30 am. This is a day of culmination for these young people who have worked with their animals all year developing an array of personal skills and raising an animal worth taking to market. It is a day filled with rollercoaster emotions for our youth, but one that pays huge dividends for all their hard work.
Friday heats up by noon when the Beef BBQ will be available. The CPRA Rodeo then gets underway in the arena and people are encouraged to get into the grandstands out of the sun and enjoy a well-produced rodeo sure to excite and entertain every person.
This year the Kiowa County Fair Board has managed to put enough money together to bring back the beloved horse races. On Friday, three open races, the Larry & Susan Lusher Memorial race, and a saddle race are scheduled to run throughout the rodeo program. In the days of old, horse betting was a favorite part of watching the rodeo and the races. Consider getting up a friendly group bet or enter into the serious betting on the track.
Finally, by Saturday the day will start with the annual Fair Parade that will run down Maine Street in downtown Eads. Head on out to the Fairgrounds after the parade for the Pork BBQ and then the rodeo for a second day starting at 1:00 pm. More horseracing will be on the agenda including 4 open races, the Rob Kelley Memorial race, and a saddle race.
According to Fair organizers the horse racing was made possible through the hard work of Rob Kelley who spent weeks in the Eads area rallying the community to put money back into the Fair event. Unfortunately, Rob died unexpectedly right when he was reaching his goal. The people of the community and the Fair Board will carry Rob’s torch to the finish line.
Saturday night events in the arena include the Ranch Bronc Riding event.
The kids are going to be thrilled to see what awaits them in the Carnival area at the Fairgrounds. Keri DeWitt, former Eads High School student, has been contracted by the Fair Board to bring the Dino Encounters show and play area to the Kiowa County Fair.
DinoEncounters includes an array of dinosaur activities and fun that can only be explained by the owner of this magical carnival coming to the Kiowa County Fair.
We caught up with Keri and asked her to tell us about the DinoEncounters and what she’s been up to since leaving Eads some 30 years ago:
I graduated from Eads in 1986. I played basketball and track. Lane Gooden was our coach. I think my senior year we won districts and advanced to the next level before losing.
I had a full NCAA Division I basketball scholarship to UC Irvine in California and was accepted into their Mechanical Engineering program. During this time, my parents, Russell and Barbara moved back to Missouri.
During my sophomore year my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. I took a leave of absence from UCI and came home to help take care of him and our farm. He passed away April 13, 1989. After being home for almost a year caring for dad, I had to give up my basketball scholarship. I reached out to the US Air Force Academy coaches. They had recruited me in 1985. It was mid-year, so I went into the Prep Academy. While there my mother was killed in a car accident in Missouri. I then withdrew from school and went home to settle their estate and sell the farm. I was just 21. Once the farm sold, I returned to CA and moved in with an old college roommate. She was about to graduate, but I was still just a sophomore. I got a job and was severely depressed. I had lost my whole world. Both parents, my home, my pets, most of my friends. It was a very difficult time.
I was setting with my pastor one day, sharing my woes and he said, why don’t you call Biola and see if you could play ball there and go back to school? Reluctantly, I got up, walked over to a pay phone and called the athletic department. Long story short, I drove up, met the coach, tried out, and was offered a full scholarship. God had provided.
Biola was an NAIA school, so I still had 5 years of eligibility to play four. My NCAA clock had expired. Biola didn’t have an engineering program, so I switched to Psychology. It was there at Biola that I developed a love for Apologetics and that’s when dinosaurs first inserted themselves into my life.
I graduated from Biola in 1994 and went to work doing data entry for $11.25/ hr. The internet was in its infancy. So, each day after work, I went to the library and used the library’s computers. It was there that I taught myself how to program html and java. I put together a little floppy disk demo and had some business cards printed up that said, “Keri DeWitt Internet Consultant.”
I quit my job at Ricoh and started building little websites for small businesses. Then I got a call from EMI Music in Las Angeles and ultimately was hired by them to design and build their corporate intranet. This was the launch of my first career. I learned everything I could at EMI and then went into consulting for IKON and within 3 years was making six figures. My last corporate job was as a Senior Product Manager for Verisign’s International division in the Bay Area.
In 2004, I started my own company named Teresis. I raised $1.8 M in venture capital. I have 8 issued software patents. Teresis was the first to provide television post-production services over the internet. For several years, just about every postproduction company in Hollywood was a customer including Oprah Winfrey, the BBC, Sony and Fox networks.
Then the 2008 recession happened and many of our clients either went out of business or cut back on their production. Teresis went out of business in 2009.
In 2005 I got married to Thomas Majchrowsi. He is a software developer and is currently a Senior Vice President at a major health care provider.
We started our family in 2011 with the birth of our son Grant. I completed my MBA from UCI graduating Beta Gamma Sigma in 2014. I was planning to go into Finance. Tom and I lost our second child Megyn at 22.5 weeks. She is buried in Missouri next to my parents. Four months later, Aug 1, 2013 I had a stroke and lost part of my vision. I was 45. Doctors were perplexed because it was from a bleed and not a clot. I spent 10 days in the hospital while they tried to figure it out. Grant was just two months away from his third birthday and he wanted a dinosaur party.
Doctors were suggesting some serious diagnosis and I was afraid I might not live to be there for Grant’s 4th birthday. So, I focused all my energy on designing this dinosaur party. I wanted it to be something he would remember and hopefully remember me. It was a big success and other people asked if I would do the same party for them and Dino Encounters was hatched! The Lord blessed me and healed me. I regained all of my vision after 9 months. I grew that business 141% YOY until covid. In 2019 we did 373 events in California. I had 6 people working for me and three trucks and trailers working full time. In 2018, I expanded and added Mars Encounters, Ice Age Encounters and the Science of Lewis and Clark. I designed and flew to China to have the Ice Age Puppets made. I have the US copyright on them. We have the only walk around 8ft tall 12 ft long woolly mammoth in the world.
During this time, my daughter Gracie was born. Due to complications when I lost Megyn, I was not able to carry her, so we had to have a surrogate. She is my miracle and my Amazing Grace.
In 2020, I was tracking to have a record year, but due to covid, California locked the state down for 18 months. It all but destroyed my business. My promoter got bookings for me across the country in 2021, so the kids and I went on tour just to have cash flow. We traveled 12,000 miles across 16 states, and I performed our show 70 times.
Tom and I had had enough with California, and we moved to Missouri in the fall of 2021.
To rebuild the business, I’m focusing on fairs and festivals this year but hoping to start our own traveling educational event in 2024.
So, this year my trailer is carrying dinosaur rides, our Jurassic Gyroscopes, 78 ft. Trex Skeleton Obstacle course, fossil replica digs, and dinosaur-themed carnival games and prehistoric mini golf. This is the package the Oklahoma State Fair purchased, and they are my next stop after Eads. I’m in the process of buying a bigger trailer, 52 ft, so I can fit more stuff in it next year.
This has been an interesting journey. I never expected Dino Encounters to take off the way it has. I was the second person in the country to have the walk around dinosaur puppet costume and now there are about 150 companies in the US. I’ve done a couple thousand birthday parties and I probably have the world record for standing inside and holding up one of the walk-around puppets that weigh about 75 -90lb. Over 600 hours in Rocky the Trex has gifted me with a few bulging discs. Dino Encounters has taken me to China, over 25 states and national TV. It’s provided me a creative outlet. I’ve written three songs that have been professionally produced, I’ve developed three mobile apps, I’ve written scripts, designed curriculum, and engineered over a dozen puppets. Every hands-on activity I created and made or contracted someone to make. All the artwork, graphics, and marketing materials, etc. The business is really a display of my creativity and ideas and behind every idea was a passion to create something that was both fun and educational. For example, the mini golf is a tour of 500 million years of earth’s history. I have a mobile app that provides additional information about the dinosaurs and their fossils featured in all the activities and exhibits.
I have come across lots of interesting people. Some believe the dinosaurs never existed, others believe they are alive today and still with others, everything in between. It often gives me an opportunity to witness and share about God’s creation with them from a fresh perspective perhaps they hadn’t heard or considered. I get excited when a Christian school books us and gives me permission to present from the perspective that Dinosaurs are a wonderful part of God’s creation.
My vision for this going forward is to launch my own touring educational STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) event. Field trips and assemblies are expensive for schools and in many locations across the US, schools are to remote to travel within a day to a city with a museum. I see a need and an opportunity to bring dinosaurs, Martian rigolith, a Lakota camp and a woolly mammoth to children everywhere in the hopes that it ignites their imagination to learn, invent and discover more about God’s amazing creation.
I hope everyone enjoys the activities. I want to thank Doug Uhland and Betsy Barnett for their role in bringing Dino Encounters to the community.
Hope to see you at the fair!