After about 47 years, this year, the Red River Valley Fair will lack Rita Jane Haynes and her fun-loving attitude as she passed away on Sept. 24, 2021. However, the fairgrounds is covered in her fingerprints as “she was a driving force of getting it built.”
Steve Tucker, Red River Valley Fair Association’s executive director, said he is going to miss being able to pick up the phone to call Haynes.
“I made the comment to one of our association members this afternoon actually,” Tucker said. “I looked at them and said, ‘my safety net’s gone.’ She was my safety net. If I ever had a question, I could call her and she knew how to fix it.”
Haynes, Tucker expressed, was determined and stubborn, and “if you’re going to be on the fairgrounds, you were going to do it her way.”
“She always told me, ‘there are three ways to do things – the right way, the wrong way and the Rita Jane Way. Take a guess which one we’re going to do,’” Tucker said.
Haynes made an impact on the community, not just those who visit the fair annually, but with those who held events on the fairgrounds – from family reunions to weddings.
“As Wade White said during her funeral service (Monday), ‘everything on this fairgrounds has her fingerprints on it,’” Tucker said. “The coliseum was built in 1921, but she did oversee the renovation of the coliseum back in the late 80s. But everything else out here, she was its driving force.”
Tucker said one of his fondest memories of Haynes is her fun-loving attitude.
“We could just sit and joke,” he said. “We had so many laughs in the office over the silliest of stuff. We would be crying from laughing so hard.”
Another memory of Haynes, Tucker said, describes her stubbornness and commitment to the Red River Valley Fair. It took about three hours to convince her to go to the hospital for potentially having broken her foot.
“I think it was a Friday night of the fair, and she had gotten on one of the side-by-sides with one of our board members,” Tucker recalled. “She got off to talk to someone, standing right next to the side-by-side. She turned to get her Dr. Pepper off the side-by-side, and the board member who was driving had backed up and run over her foot, hyper-extending it.”
Tucker said Haynes was “bound and determined she wasn’t leaving until we were done for the night.”
“She wanted to be there and make sure the fair was done the Rita Jane Way,” Tucker said.
If he was able to talk to her one more time, Tucker said he would thank Haynes.
“Thank you for being a great teacher, because I never knew you were teaching me to be the executive director,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to make you proud.”
Photo: Rita Jane Haynes and Steve Tucker