Church celebrates 25th year of outdoor services at county fair

Rev. Marvin Neubauer leads a word of prayer during the United Methodist Church service at the Sarpy County Fairgounds Sunday morning. The service drew a large audience including others working the fair like Marykay Selden (aka Miss Pockets) on the left and Linda Guynn (Mz. Purple Pockets) on the right.

Twenty-five years ago, the Sarpy County Fair added its first events on Sunday.

The congregation of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, which had run a popular food stand for 50 years at the fair, had to find a way to mesh the routine of a Sunday with the new responsibilities at the fairgrounds.

So they brought church to the fair.

Sunday morning, the First United Methodist celebrated its 25th service at the fair with a mix of church congregation regulars and new faces.

“This would be a real light Sunday if we weren’t down here,” the Rev. Marvin Neubauer, pastor at First United Methodist said. “This year, I’ve really noticed we had a lot of folks who weren’t regular parts of our congregation. Moreso this year than in past years.”

Two attendees really stuck out as Linda Guynn and Marykay Selden attended the service. The duo are better known as clowns Mz. Purple Pockets and Miss Pockets, respectively, and came to church in full clown attire. They fit in well with numerous kids in attendance, all of whom were given streamers before church and invited up front during the closing of the service to dance with the streamers.

As with many things, what started out of necessity has turned into a blessing for the church.

“When (the fair) started being open on Sunday, we had to have the fair stand open on Sunday,” said Mary Savage, who’s been with the church since the first open-air service at the fairgrounds. “We didn’t have a choice. We started having services here then.”

It does make for a long week for the church and Neubauer, who’s led the church for the last four years.

“The first thing they told me was you can’t have anything scheduled for this week because you’ve got to do the food stand,” he said. “And we worship at the fair, so you can’t ever take these days off.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.