TONGANOXIE – Dean Sheets is known for his strong handshake.
“When Dean shakes your hand, you know it’s been shook,” said Gene Waters, assistant superintendent of the hog barn at the Leavenworth County Fair.
True to form, Sheets firmly shook the hand of a visitor Wednesday on Day 2 of the annual fair before sharing stories of his time as superintendent of the hog barn over the last five decades.
Sheets, 90, is a well-known person at the fair. And for good reason. He has been the hog superintendent for more than 50 years.
Sheets, who has lived in a ranch house that sits on 15 acres in Linwood since 1963, has seen the hog count rise dramatically since he became superintendent.
“There used to be only about 20 hogs at the fair,” he said. “There are about 200 this year.”
Sheets said this year’s hog entries look good.
“The quality is excellent,” he said. “It’s probably the best quality we’ve had in years.”
Many people know Sheets from the county fair, but some may not know he excelled as a wrestler.
Sheets wrestled at Kansas State University, beginning a lifetime love affair with the sport.
Several years ago, as an 83-year-old, he was still competing in wrestling in the Sunflower Games.
He won two matches against a 50-year-old man, then hung up his singlet forever.
He still assists as a coach for wrestling clubs in Linwood and DeSoto.
Sheets said his time as hog superintendent may be coming to an end.
“I enjoy the fair very much,” he said. “But Gene does all the work. I am going to request that they make him the superintendent and I’m just going to come out and hang around.”
The county fair continues through Saturday at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
Thursday’s schedule includes rabbit, beef cattle and dairy goat shows. A youth rodeo will be held at 7 p.m. in the arena.
Friday’s schedule includes a livestock auction, a pie baking contest and an Off Road Challenge at 7:30 p.m. in the arena.
Saturday’s schedule includes a mud run, a kids’ pedal tractor pull, a watermelon eating contest and the Broncs, Bulls & Bareback rodeo at 8 p.m. in the arena.