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Scenes from Day 1 at Iredell Fair

By Jim Mcnally, Statesville Record and Landmark

I stopped Hubba Bubba on the midway of Iredell County Fairgrounds on Monday afternoon, soon after the 5 p.m. opening of this year's weeklong 80th annual event. I wondered if I should call him Hubba or Mr. Bubba or what. Anyway, after a while I realized I'd interviewed him before. I think it was a couple of years ago. And, as if on cue; as if we'd rehearsed the bit, the featured clown at this year's fair said he recalled the event.

"In fact, I have a picture of you," he said as he rifled through some of his dozen pockets. "Ah," he added after a moment, "here it is." It was then he showed me a picture of the letter U. "Get it? A picture of U."

I loved it, but the giant-shoed gent wasn't finished.

"That was corny," he said. "Let me show you something a little greater." And he pulled out a tiny cheese grater. "Get it? A little grater."

In the clown world, that kind of shtick gets them roaring. Start honking a rubber nose or waving around a rubber chicken and you have the crowd in the palm of your hand.

Hubba Bubba's real name is Kevie Penny but he has been Hubba Bubba for so long it's hard for him to break character, and I could tell he had more stuff in his pockets that could have us there all day, and I had an entire fair to check out.

Just across the midway from where Bubba was situated was a wrestling ring where two larger and paunchy fellows whose real names were Bobby Cosby and George South were setting up shop.

In his wrestling gear, Cosby becomes Rex Rumble and South is Mr. Number One. Monday was South's 53rd birthday and he said his daughter was angry at him for heading to work rather than spending time with the family. But South couldn't resist.

"I've been in this business my whole life," he said of inner-ring exploits. "It's in my blood."

Cosby is only 38 but has spent most of his life in the ring also.

"You have to train and learn how to move," Cosby said. "But you also need to know the psychology of it. It takes time to know what you're doing."

Inside the main exhibition building at the fair, Iredell County Republican Party Chairman Matt McCall was conducting an actual straw poll that allowed passersby to literally place a piece of straw in the jar corresponding to GOP presidential candidates.

And within an hour or so of the start of the fair, it became obvious that Iredell County is Trump territory. The Donald's jar had enough straw to build a manger and early favorite Jeb Bush's was empty.

Down at the booth of the Iredell County Democrats, ice cream was moving fast at $1.50 a scoop because it was nearing triple digits in temperature inside the exhibition hall.

Democrat Sam Hall said his first customer of the day was U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx.

"I had to turn her away," Hall said and explained it had nothing to do with Foxx being a Republican.

"We weren't ready to open yet," Hall said.

Meanwhile, down at the track in lower part of the fairgrounds, go-carts were revving up for a big race.

Dylan Smith, a 15-year-old from Concord, has been riding go-carts since he could walk and has a tucked away dream of being a NASCAR driver.

"I don't know if that's what I'll end up doing," he said. "But we'll see where it takes me."

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