JSL’s Cowpoke Carnival turning 25

Published 2:46 pm Monday, September 25, 2017

By Leila S. Case

AMERICUS — When Junior Service League honorary member Sue Hall turned into a clown for the first Cowpoke Carnival, she thoroughly enjoyed letting children pick her pockets filled with candy.
“It was a lot of fun,” says Hall, who was “pocket lady” at Cowpoke for 20 years. “Children loved searching through the many pockets of my long skirt for a sweet morsel. I encouraged them to brush their teeth after eating sweets though. I enjoyed interacting with all the children. I think Cowpoke Carnival is a great league project because it is such a wholesome, multi-generational event that involves not only the children but the parents and grandparents as well.”

Sue Hall, as ‘pocket lady,’ shown with her grandchildren several years ago at the Cowpoke Carnival.

Hall retired from being “pocket lady” at Cowpoke Carnival, the Junior Service League’s longest and continuous fundraiser, but she hopes to return with the youngest generation of her family, her grandchildren, in tow to help celebrate the league’s 25th milestone anniversary this year.

Cowpoke Carnival is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Sumter County Fairgrounds, Ga. Highway 30 West. Tickets are $6 each and available from active league members or at the door. Sponsorships are also available.

What began with a simple idea of several active league members looking for a new fundraiser and a way to give back to the community has grown beyond anyone’s expectations. Any time you combine children’s games in a carnival-like atmosphere, mixed with food and music with a Wild West theme, it’s bound to be a success.

Among the original Cowpoke Carnival committee were Judy Joyner, Jan Hobgood, Cindy Pryor, Mary Kathryn Davis, Carla Cook, Kathy Greene and Reba Hunter.

“All the success we have had over the years is due to the outstanding support from people in the community and we give special thanks to this year’s premier sponsor Citizens Bank of Americus,” says Emily Anne Thomas Strickland, Cowpoke Carnival chairman. Kristi Davenport Clements is co-chair. Both Strickland and Clements remember as children going with their moms, Angie Thomas, and Mary Davenport, active members at the time, to Cowpoke Carnival, arriving early to help with preparations.

“It is a very exciting day for all of us,” says Strickland, who plans to take her daughter, Samantha Anne Strickland, to this year’s Carnival.

Activities have grown by leaps and bounds but the most popular is the much-anticipated cakewalk featuring a variety of mouthwatering homemade cakes donated by honorary members that satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. Among the more than 50 activities are the dunking booth, pony rides, go fish, games for preschoolers and beyond, entertainers, a costume contest and much, much more.

Through the years, the event has raised more than $500,000, says Angie Brunson, first vice president, and co-chair of Cowpoke’s money and token committee. More than 1,000 community members and local college students have volunteered to make the Carnival successful. Funds are directly reinvested in Sumter County through varied service projects in seven areas: Magnolia Manor, Breezeway, Education Committee, Community Health, Methodist Youth Home for Girls, Sumter Humane Society and Silver Spice at Perfect Care.

Clements says every active league member helps prepare for Cowpoke Carnival. “It takes team work to get it done. Everyone has a certain responsibility to transform the fairgrounds into a carnival atmosphere and set up the games. Our husbands, dads and sometimes granddads pitch in too. Initially it looks overwhelming but everything gets accomplished and is always a happy experience.”