Exhibition hall visitors at Pine Bluff’s Southeast Arkansas District Livestock Show and Rodeo through the remainder of the week will probably be too busy inspecting winning entries in assorted home economics competitions to even consider the long hours required in preparing and manning the displays, but extension homemakers from Jefferson County and the surrounding area could give testimony — if they weren’t so engaged in the chore.

Exhibition hall visitors at Pine Bluff’s Southeast Arkansas District Livestock Show and Rodeo through the remainder of the week will probably be too busy inspecting winning entries in assorted home economics competitions to even consider the long hours required in preparing and manning the displays, but extension homemakers from Jefferson County and the surrounding area could give testimony — if they weren’t so engaged in the chore.


About 25 extension homemakers were tending to the task Monday afternoon. Their experience was apparent as they moved about, functioning like a proverbial well-oiled machine.


As a 50-year extension homemaker, Pine Bluff’s Bettye Johnson is totally familiar with the process.


"We’re setting up booths, tables, chairs and whatever," said Johnson, the assistant superintendent for the fair’s youth, junior and adult home economics exhibits. "Judges have determined the winners in art, photography, quilts, arts and crafts, sewing and all the other categories and we’re placing the ribbons on the winning entries and putting them together for displays, but all of the entries are already winners. They won at their county fairs and that’s how they wound up here."


The Southeast Arkansas District includes Jefferson, Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Grant, Lincoln, Ouachita, Prairie and White counties.


Johnson — a retired 35-year state employee — said the extension homemakers program doesn’t get the credit it deserves in helping its members in developing leadership skills, learning sound values, and acquiring talents needed to enhance home and family life. She said her late mother, Mildred Bennett, was also an extension homemaker.


Johnson said she expects to put in around 50 hours of volunteer service at the fair along with other extension homemakers, but the group considers it time well spent.


"I enjoy seeing all the people and working with them," she said, "I also like watching children competing in art as they grow up. I like to see them as their skills develop and their talents increase. Some of these children may become famous someday."


Johnson is impressed by families in which the youngest and oldest generations are active competitors.


"It’s fun to see elderly people involved, especially with their children and grandchildren." she said. "There’s one mother here who has seven children, and each one of them entered a competition this year. That’s the kind of thing that helps to make our fair a fun time."