Stephens County Fairgrounds and Expo Center

The entrance to the grounds with the covered arena in the background. (Photo by Judy Wade)

By Judy Wade

Livestock shows, rodeos, coin shows, swap meets, go-kart races, fishing and tackle shows, fish fries and hog shows are just a few of the attraction throughout the year at the Stephens County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Duncan, Okla.

“I want everybody to come and have a part in this place,” said Mike Anderson, director of the facility.

Something for everyone can certainly be found here.

Several buildings dot the 44 acres, including the open-air Claude Gill Arena where some outdoor events, including the Lions Club Rodeo, are held.  The first building, a Conference Center that has been added to and remodeled over the years, was built in the late ‘50s in addition to the original north and south barns. Next came the livestock building with seating for 900. Padded seats from a theater being torn down in Oklahoma City provided comfort for spectators. It opened in the early ‘60s with a concert by Reba McEntire, who was still in high school.

At one time a race track where the airport is now saw matched horse races in the ‘50s. Cowboys such as the Burk brothers of rodeo fame and others brought their roping and bull dogging horses or ranch horses and raced on Sunday afternoons.

In the late ‘90s, planning for a large covered arena began. A sales tax was passed to help fund the project in hopes of the events attracting large attendances and making a positive economic impact on the city of Duncan. It has been successful, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The new arena, seating 2,000 with the additional seating for 900 on the east, opened in 2000. It is approximately 100×250 with additional space for vendors on the north and concessions, restrooms and an office on the west. It originally had a small corridor—about 80×100—leading to a warm-up arena. Pens for livestock were outside. After much debate, a 200×200 free-span cover was added to that area. The old stall barn was torn down and a new one built with 200 horse stalls.

“We hope to add more covered areas in the near future to facilitate multi-purpose events,” Anderson explained. “It would be possible, for example, to have two arenas for barrel racing or team roping or have two different events going at the same time.”

One of the largest events at the arena is the American Heritage, arguably the largest bucking bull futurity in the nation. A part of the ABBI, next June will mark the third year it has come to Duncan. With producers bringing 500 to 600 young bulls, an immediate need for the facility is more bull pens. Now they can accommodate 305 comfortably.

“The largest event we host, however, is the Hog Bonanza, which has been going on for 30 years,” Anderson said.

People with their show hogs come from all over the nation for the week. Many of the visitors consider the Hog Bonanza a vacation, he remarked.

“They greatly add to the economic impact of the whole area with the money they spend on motels, eats and shopping,” he continued. “Many of the ladies take shopping trips to Lawton, and Lawton provides motels and shuttle service to the Fairgrounds.”

Read the November issue to learn more!