vicious nature of current political discourse makes me nauseous. We
have lost, temporarily I hope, the ability to laugh at ourselves and
each other. What this self-righteous world needs is some inspired
I miss the Luckenbach World's Fair.
The World's Fair began as a hair-brained idea in the minds of Luckenbach's
owners, Hondo Crouch and Guich Koock, but as usual with those guys,
the initial idea was only a point of departure, followed by a hard
left turn, into a bizarre world of humorous nonsense.
| "We're planning
on 20,000 to 30,000 people this first year," Koock stated, tongue
in cheek, when announcing the first World's Fair in the summer of
The town, of course, wasn't equipped to handle anything more than
a small wedding party. Five cars in town at one time caused a bottleneck.
was not designed for modern vehicular traffic.
At least there was hope that the Luckenbach
parking meter, an important source of city revenue, would get a workout.
Not that anyone ever paid to park in Luckenbach
but every once in a while a drunk cowboy dropped a quarter in - thinking
it was a slot machine.
Guich and Hondo dreamed up the world's fair as an elaborate joke,
hoping to bring some business to their little town, but the joke backfired.
showed up. The store ran out of beer. There weren't enough toilets
- or trees.
People, as it turned out, were longing for a little foolishness
in a world way too serious for its own good.
The political atmosphere in 1973 was strangely similar to our current
mess. Richard Nixon and Watergate dominated the news. The country
was politically polarized.
America needed a diversion.
And so the news of the World's Fair spread like gossip at the beauty
parlor. Newspapers all over the Southwest picked up the story.
The first World's Fair had an art show featuring Fredericksburg
artist Charles Beckendorf and Jim Franklin of Austin.
Franklin painted surreal posters pf prairie schooners inside Lone
Star Beer bottles.
But the Luckenbach World's Fair was more than an art show. It was
part Animal House and part Willie's Picnic.
In addition to music and beer, there was a tobacco spitting contest
- judged on distance and accuracy - and a buffalo chip tossing contest.
The crowd, as a whole, was well-behaved. "At least," Guich Koock
reported, "there wasn't much beer drinking during Sunday morning
There was talk of a second World's Fair in 1974, but the Luckenbach
Chamber of Commerce decided against it. The hangover from the first
one lasted longer than expected.
The first year crowd was so big it scared the livestock. The cows
stopped giving milk, and the chickens quit laying eggs. The guineas
after a year hiatus, Crouch and Koock staged the second semi-annual
Luckenbach World's Fair at the old Fair Grounds in Fredericksburg.
In addition to music, drinking, spitting and tossing, there was
a championship chicken flying contest, a laughing contest and thoroughbred
Hondo Crouch was the perfect host. As one visitor put it, "Just
looking at Hondo put you in a good mood."
No one knew what to expect from Hondo. One day he showed up in a
suit. Said he ran out of dirty clothes.
| Luckenbach World's
After one more
year in Fredericksburg,
the World's Fair moved back to Luckenbach.
In addition to the usual events there was a new contest called the
"Back Door Races." At the sound of a shotgun, 4 contestants, dressed
in their underwear, had to jump out of bed and put on their pants.
The first one through the window was the winner.
There were disappointments. The Russian Olympic Team never made
it. They were entered in the vodka chugging contest. Technically
they weren't no-shows since they never responded to the official
The last Luckenbach World's Fair was in 1981. By then Hondo died
and Guich had gone to purgatory (aka Hollywood).
Meanwhile the world turned serious. We lost our appreciation for
I hope we get it back.
© Michael Barr
December 1, 2017 Column
"Worlds Fair," The San Antonio Light, May 27, 1973
"Bakers '13' Dozen," The Fort Stockton Pioneer, April 22, 1973
"Luckenbach World's Far Set For June 30-July 1," Fredericksburg
Standard, May 16, 1973
"Russians Invited To Attend Luckenbach World Fair," Northwest Arkansas
Times, June 14, 1981
"The Luckenbach World Fair is back for this summer," Alton Telegraph,
June 6, 1981