The wagons aren’t just static museum pieces. The teams behind the camps work to ensure every detail is authentic, right down to the water barrel and shaving kit with a leather strap for sharpening the razor.
“On the cattle drives, the fellow that ran the chuck wagon was the cook; he was a doctor; he was a dentist; he was the guy who cut hair,” said Bryan Shealy, Coosa Valley Fair Association past president. “He was god, so to speak, of the cattle drive.”
Today at noon the teams will be offering trail-cooked meals to 300 ticket holders at the fair. The teams are competing in categories including the wagon and encampment, meat, potatoes, biscuits, beans and desserts.
Cash is on the line as well. First place in each category wins $300, second place $200 and third place $100. Overall winner for wagon and cooking takes home $500. The judges will be following specifications established under the American Chuck Wagon Association.
“Nothing could be there that they wouldn’t have found in 1870 on the trail,” said Shealy.
Sammy Hogan, 59, of Ranger, runs Greenhorn Cattle Company with Billy Peeples, 56, and Jesse Peeples, 21, both of Chatsworth. Hogan hunched over the wagon’s cooking area and chopped multi-colored peppers as he explained his passion for chuck wagon competition.
The members of the Greenhorn Cattle Company built their wagon from the blueprints of an 1868 chuck wagon. Hogan said he appreciates interacting with visitors who are curious about history and also enjoys the team camaraderie.
“It’s just the way they did it back in the 1800s,” said Hogan. “Nobody realizes how hard they had it back then. This is just a little taste of it.”
COOSA VALLEY FAIR SCHEDULE
10 to 11 a.m. — Pre-opening special: Carload admitted for $5 (no trucks or vans)
10 a.m. — Gates open until midnight. Armbands $25, unlimited rides until closing.
10 a.m. to Noon — Little Miss Coosa Valley “Challenger” and Miss Coosa Valley “Challenger” pageants
Noon to 1 p.m. — OTR Chuck Wagon food serving: tickets required
1 p.m. — Brian Staples Animal Encounters Show
5 p.m. — Brian Staples Animal Encounters Show
7 p.m. — Miss Coosa Valley Fair Pageant
9 p.m. — Brian Staples Animal Encounters Show
Note: Any and all Coosa Valley Fair activities, including armbands, may be canceled because of inclement weather.