Around 60 from the congregation were involved in working the booth, according to the church bulletin “NLR Observer.”
Twenty Somers Ave. Christians worked the Monday following the fair to process the requests for the correspondence courses.
The Somers congregation began the Fair Booth work in 1972. Paperwork error caused them to miss 2006, the only year since its inception. Bob Cook, who has worked with the program since its beginning, said they have processed over 26,000 lessons to date.
Bob also spends hours researching the Bible questions and sending answers to the correspondence course students.
Larry Klotz, deacon who coordinates the program, estimated “that several dozen people on average complete the Bible course. Quite a few also submit questions about doctrinal issues and other inquiries. Occasionally, we wind up helping someone locate a congregation or contact a congregation so they can follow up with someone in their area. Because of the widespread contacts, it is impossible to know exactly how many people become Christians, so our stories are anecdotal.”
One of those stories was told by the Somers preacher, Oran Burt, in 2001. “Eddie Durham, from Paragould Children’s Homes, who drives their truck route, asked me one day if we still operated our booth at the state fair. He said, ‘I stopped by your booth and enrolled in the Bible lessons, and I was baptized after learning the truth.'”
The booth has to be manned constantly while the fair is open. “That’s why we have so many participants. We work the booth in 3-hour shifts over the ten days. Many of our senior members and families with children find it a good way to do evangelism work locally,” Klotz said.
Besides the Bible giveaway, this year extras included two NIV audio bibles on CD with portable CD players. The Bibles were mailed to the winners immediately after the fair, with postage-paid return envelopes to return a receipt. The fair required the congregation to prove that giveaway winners actually receive their winnings.
The 1980’s were peak years for the fair booth work. In 1986, 4294 people registered for a free Bible and 1824 signed up for the Bible correspondence course.
For churches interested in the fair booth work, Klotz observed, “Getting started simply requires getting the vendor requirements from the local fair associations. For the Arkansas State Fair, planning begins in April. The fair requires vendors to sign a contract by 1 May. Booth rental (10′ x 10′) with electricity is $600. Plus, they require us to have liability insurance. The contract is pretty simple: we agree to abide by the rules and regulations. Each year, we spend a total of around $1000, not including the cost of postage for the Bible courses.”
Klozt recalled the nature of the work. “It’s all about planting seeds. The ‘reaping’ may happen weeks, months or years later.”