Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For Sunday, October 5


Tears shed as memories of state fair recalled


          Pete Sampras was in tears recently. The occasion was his retirement from professional tennis at age 32. Winner of a record 14 grand slams, Sampras was considered the greatest tennis player of all time.

            No one noticed my tears last week. I shed them as I recalled how important the state fair had been to my mother. No matter what her pain or difficulty of the moment, Mama always made her entries into exhibitions at the fair in Montgomery. Before she died at 95, she had won hundreds of ribbons.

            Others in our family were inspired by Mama to offer items for display at the state fair. For ten years or more, our son Tim has taken the time to prepare a walking stick or a jar of jelly for the fair.

            Our granddaughter, Clair Courtney, has entered some of her excellent photographs. She won a ribbon or two for her fine work with her camera last year.

            No one was more inspired by Mama than our daughter-in-law, Tammy, the wife of our son Matt. I was so blessed by her essay entry for this year’s fair that I want to share it with you:

            “My name is Mrs. Walter M. Albritton III. I make that statement in humble adoration of the ‘original’ Mrs. Walter M. Albritton, Caroline Johnson Albritton of Wetumpka, AL. She entered the Alabama National Fair and won her first blue ribbon at the ‘State Fair of Alabama-Montgomery’ in 1929.

            “Though the name of the fair has changed, she never missed a year of entering her homemade canned goods, flowers, needlework and other various treasures. She took great pride in her family and home, and passed many traditions on to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; one of those being her excitement and enthusiasm for the ALABAMA NATIONAL FAIR.

            “How well I remember the first year I entered the fair. Grandmama taught my husband and me how to make muscadine jelly and fig preserves and how to ‘not squeeze the juice bag; be patient and let it drip’. Although we were adults, we watched her with childlike excitement as she examined our precious jars. She would pick up a jar and say ‘too full’ or ‘not clear enough,’ until finally she had picked the perfect jar for our entry into the fair.

            “I can still recall the excitement of going to the fair on the first night and searching with anticipation to see who had won the ribbons. To our amazement, we had won second place in the jelly division! I was so excited by the award that I entered the ‘Span cooking contest’ and won first place, the blue ribbon!

            “1998 was Grandmama’s last year with us and she was bedridden. I will always remember her reaction as I burst through her bedroom door with my Span apron and the Blue Ribbon. She was so excited she began waving her hands in the air and screamed, ‘The tradition goes on! Another blue ribbon from the Alabama Fair!’

            “As she beamed with pride, I thought to myself that I had been blessed with so much more than a blue ribbon. Grandmama was the ‘First Place Prize,’ and ‘The Best of Fair.’ This is ‘what the fair means to me,’ because every time I walk into the Creative Living Center or see one of her ribbons on the wall, I know that she is still with us. The values and traditions she taught us all will be with us forever and be passed from generation to generation.

            “As I take my entries to the fair today, I have my three-year-old granddaughter Zoey Albritton with me. She is bringing her first entry, a picture that she colored to send to her daddy who is in the U.S. Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Zoey will be the first great, great grandchild, the fifth generation of Albrittons, to enter the fair competition and continue the tradition.

            “Grandmamma has gone home to be with Jesus now and I know that somewhere up there, Mrs. Walter M. Albritton is beaming with pride as she watches her grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren, standing in line to enter the 50th Annual Alabama National Fair.”

            Thanks Tammy! I hope you win another blue ribbon at the fair. + + + +