by Traci Chapman
It was Cindy and Bob Ward’s first time at Oklahoma State Fair’s Senior Day – and by the end of the day, they say they realized there really was no place like home during a day they would never forget.
“If you had told me this morning we would have done any of this, I would have thought you were kidding around,” Cindy Ward said that afternoon. “I never, ever would have expected this.”
In fact, when the El Reno couple entered the Modern Living Building, this year Oklahoma Senior Day’s new state fair home, they said they were impressed at the number of vendors, the entertainment and the wide range of activities going on, even early in the morning. With a Wizard of Oz theme – There’s No Place Like Okla’HOME’a – the Wards said they hadn’t really realized the state fair offered such a host of activities designed especially for seniors. When they discovered the “King and Queen of Emerald City” contest, they decided to enter – well, perhaps not exactly “they.”
“It was my idea,” Cindy said with a laugh. “Bob would never do anything like this on his own, but he went along with it for me.”
That’s how the couple ended up on the Senior Day stage, as they competed with four other couples in a “Newlywed Game” style contest designed to test how well each husband and wife knew each other. The Wards wondered about their chances, as they were surrounded by couples who had been married far longer than their eight years – two of them wed for 50 years; of the other two couples competing, one said they had been married more than 10 years, another had celebrated more than 20 wedding anniversaries.
But, the El Reno proved wrong everyone who believed those who lived together longest knew each other best, matching each other’s answers on four of five questions.
“I couldn’t believe it, but we just are so compatible, just know each other so well, that I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Cindy said.
After being crowned 2017 king and queen and receiving a host of prizes, flowers, crowns and a trophy, the couple took part in the antique tractor parade, which wound its way through State Fair Park.
Bob and Cindy Ward met, as many couples do, online. After each lost their respective spouses, they reached out on a Christian dating site, literally across the miles – Cindy lived in Deming, New Mexico, while Bob was in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
“We had a 97 percent match, and when we met, it just clicked,” Bob said. “We knew it was meant to be.”
With family members facing serious illnesses in Cindy’s hometown – El Reno – the Wards decided Oklahoma was the place to be, and they’ve never looked back, they said.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but we’re together and that’s what matters,” Cindy said.
While Cindy and Bob Ward were the stars of Senior Day, they were far from the only attraction during the special event. Many vendors provided medical, home, entertainment and other information, while others conducted diabetes, blood pressure, fall risk and memory screenings.
The day started with Ms. Oklahoma Senior America Dawn Anita Plumlee singing the National Anthem. The Duncan, Oklahoma, singer and songwriter was crowned during a July 29 pageant; 2016 Ms. Oklahoma Senior America, Dove Morgan Schmidt of Bristow, led the antique tractor parade later that day.
The antique tractor parade featured not only Schmidt and the Wards, but also other state fair royalty – Oklahoma City Indian Princesses, Miss Oklahoma State Fair, Miss Oklahoma State Fair Outstanding Teen and Oklahoma Frontier Experience cast members, as well as several area Red Hatters riding their own float. Tractors, ranging from historic to beautifully restored and even a little silly, were not only the parade’s stars, but also then remained for the rest of the fair as part of a tractor exhibit involving several Oklahoma tractor clubs. The Not Just Country Line Dancers, Oklahoma State Fiddlers, Okie Stompers, Southeast Navy Band, Dorothy’s Line Dance Class, Vocal Sounds of Oklahoma and Yellow Rose Dinner Theater provided entertainment, and Oklahoma State Department of Health sponsored two Tai Chi sessions. Several trivia and creative activities rounded out the day, while an Elvis Extravaganza was the event’s evening finale.
“We wanted to make this bigger than ever before – to make this a celebration of all seniors, to give them what they’re interested in seeing, learning about and doing,” organizer Wynelle Record said. “We’re very happy with the turnout, and we’re already looking forward to next year.”