Randy Robbins, Pilot staff writer

"I think they picked us because we are finally, officially, old!" said Bette Hockema 82, about being chosen with her husband, Earl, 85, as this years Curry County Fair grand marshals.

"I mean, that is the requirement isn't it? Being ... old?" she chides.

"Actually," she said, "it is a really nice honor." The couple will preside over the Curry County Fair to be held July 24-27, titled "Razzle-Dazzle - Sew it, Grow it, Show It" at the Event Center in downtown Gold Beach.

The Hockemas are a longtime Pistol River couple, with deep roots in the community.

The Hockemas and the Fair have a history together.

Back in 1953 the couple teamed up with long-time friends Marian and Mildred Walker, volunteering to help each other put up a display booth for the community of Pistol River.

"That was the way we did it back then" said Bette. " Each community kind of competed against the other communities around here to see who could "out-do who" when it came to displaying produce, needlepoint, canning and homemade food items."

One year, the two couples had taken a cabin retreat upriver and hit upon a novel approach to take their exhibit to the next level. "The men decided to dismantle the cabin's antique stove and bed and then reassemble them in the Pistol River booth - which they did." Bette smiles at the memory. "The men contributed a lot of effort that year." On top of that, the two women were both expecting their first children at the time!

After that initial foray into fairs, the Hockemas and Walkers became hooked on helping exhibitors turn out great fairs for attendees - often volunteering incredible hours to help put out displays and exhibits that they and others had submitted. On one occasion, when the fair was loaded with a record amount of exhibits, the two women worked tirelessly, racking up 56 continuous hours, taking in entries, taking all night to set them up for judging, preparing paperwork for the judging, and finally rearranging the displays for public viewing. "There may have been a quick cat nap here and there," Bette said.

Bette and Mildred continued to volunteer. Years turned into decades and the two friends weathered it all, standing side by side, putting the final touches on countless displays, encouraging folks to enter, helping others to put their best foot forward with a keen eye for details. It was their passion.

For someone who claims to be putting a few miles on her age odometer, Bette still packs a lot of punch. She continues to volunteer at the Hospice Rummage sale, the Curry County Historical Museum, and the Curry General Hospital Auxiliary.

Earl was a hard-working logger, cutting timber for 30 years in the hills of Curry County. Later, he would serve for the same amount of time as a linesman for Gold Beach Panther football, keeping track of yardage on the sidelines.

Earl always found time, however, to enter produce, apples, flowers and lilies into the fair over the years.

The Curry County Fair was a family affair as well. The Hockema children - Dennie, Mark, and John - all took part in 4-H with horses and sheep to show at the fair.

Does this busy grandmother ever take time to go on any of the fair's many rides?

"I went on a ride a couple of years ago with my granddaughter. I don't even know what it was called. To this day, I don't know why I did it. It was crazy. ... I thought (the ride) was going to pull my head off!"

As for now she says she will settle for riding in "someone else's convertible" with Earl during the fair parade.