Benton Franklin Fair

Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo volunteers step into spotlight

The people leading the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo parade this year are used to being behind the scenes.

Dobie and Julie Burns and their family are longtime volunteers who pitch in whenever asked to keep the fair going. That's what led the fair board to choose the Burns family as grand marshals for the 63rd annual fair, said Lori Lancaster, the fair's manager.

Dobie Burns and his family have been involved in the fair since before it changed from the Grape Festival. He and his relatives helped run and volunteered at the Columbia Valley Grange food booth.

Dobie Burns, a Pasco farmer, can't recall missing a fair in his 45 years. He started out showing animals, mainly steers. Now, he, Julie and daughter Jayleen, 19, volunteer with the fair. Their son Ricky, 16, plans to show one of his steers, Buferd.

The fair helps children learn responsibility through caring for animals and also about cash flow and budgeting, he said. Their kids got help buying their animals and grain the first several years, but then had to save and budget for next year's animal.

Jayleen and Ricky have used raising livestock to buy their own cars and help contribute to their college funds, said Julie Burns, 52. Both started showing animals in grade school.

Julie Burns tried her hand at the powder puff demolition derby once, and Dobie Burns won the combine demolition derby several times before that event was canceled in the early '90s.

His combine, called the Hog, was a pink that no pig naturally is, his wife said. That's an event Dobie Burns said he would like to see come back.

It started a 22-year tradition of holding a hog feed for the community. Dobie Burns said the first year he won, he used the prize money to purchase a pig and have it barbecued and invited everyone who supported him. They stopped holding the bash a couple of years ago, although it lasted longer than the demolition derby.

Julie Burns said her favorite part of the fair is the market stock sale, where children bring their animals out into a ring to be bid on.

"You know they have worked so hard," she said.

It's not her husband's favorite though, because she said she has spent quite a bit of money there through the years. Dobie Burns said his favorite part is watching the rodeo, especially the bull ride.

At first, Julie Burns said she thought the Benton Franklin Fair Association members were kidding about naming them grand marshals. After all, the Burnses volunteer because they enjoy it.

"We try to do whatever we can and still have fun," she said.

The fair wouldn't exist if people didn't volunteer and participate, Ricky said.

The couple aren't the usual suspects to be honored with the title, Lancaster said. Many in the community may not have heard of them."They are probably our best volunteers and supporters," she said.

The marshals will be present in the fair's flag raising ceremony and introduced Tuesday on the main stage before the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts concert, Lancaster said.

Julie Burns said the family will be starting the parade in her 1966 turquoise convertible Mustang. She will be driving. "It's my car," she said.

The car club they belong to, the Olympia Beatniks, will be following them.

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