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Fair parade Grand Marshall announced PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 07 July 2011 20:21

By Carolyn Lee

The Imperial Republican


Vilas Smith of Champion says he’ll have to find a clean hat for the Chase County Fair parade on Aug. 20. He’s been named Grand Marshall of the parade.

When asked how his life reflects the theme of the parade, “The Spirit of Adventure,” Smith, 89, said “Work. I guess that is it. Not much outside of flying things.”

There’s more to his life than that.

Smith was born on the divide south of Enders to Bryan and Ethel (Bressie) Smith. His maternal grandfather had homesteaded in a sod house southeast of Enders.

89-year old Vilas Smith finds adventure with his ‘57 Piper Tri-Pacer, a plane he still flies. The farmer, among other professions, has been named the Grand Marshall of the Chase County Fair parade, to be held Aug. 20. (Imperial Republican Photo)


The family lived near Lamar for two years, then purchased a home place north of Enders.

“I farmed that since I was 10 with a four-horse team on a cultivator,” Smith recollected. He always wanted to farm, and quit school following the eighth grade at Pioneer School.

He farmed with his father, and also had a land-leveling company.

Inducted into the Navy at the end of World War II, Smith fell sick before shipping out with his friends. He found himself as a Seaman 3rd Class working at a hospital in San Francisco. “We set around and didn’t do anything. I could have done a lot more if I was home. Dad was covered up” with tending hogs, milking cows and farming.

In 1951 Smith moved to his present location southwest of Imperial, eventually purchasing 4,000 acres of farm ground.

In 1953 he got into the seed dealership, which continues. He also owned a feed yard on the place for 25 years.

Because of the feed yard Smith needed to get around fast to buy cattle in Oklahoma City in August each year, or on other business.

That’s where part of the “Spirit of Adventure” ties in.

When he was 16 years old Smith started flying airplanes. When he was 18 his father bought him an Aeronca Chief.

In between that plane and his current Piper Tri-Pacer, he’s owned “in the neighborhood of 40” planes. “Some guys wouldn’t want their plane, so I’d buy it, fly it and sell it.”

The ‘57 refinished Piper is special, though, because Smith once owned a new ‘55 Tri-Pacer. He’s still flying.

He’s also flying his radio-controlled planes. Smith built his first one in 1973. His “hobby shop” now contains about 10 planes, ranging from just over a foot wingspan to a 100-inch wingspan.

The pilot also has a franchise to sell parts and kits. Clients contact him from all over the country.

In fact, Smith hosted his annual “fly-in” just last weekend. What he calls “professionals from Colorado” flew in to show off their radio-controlled planes. One of the most impressive, Smith said, was a helicopter that the owner could turn upside down and bring the blades within an inch of the runway.

Smith, who will be 90 in January, also flew a spray plane for 17 years, retiring when he was 80 years old.

Following this interview on Tuesday, Smith and son Lloyd were headed “out to the field after a bit.”

Besides wife Betty and Lloyd, other relatives include children Marla of Imperial, Merle of Hershey and Maxine of Casper, Wyo., six grandchildren and 11 grandchildren.

Lloyd, his son Nick and Nick’s son Allan farm with the man who will epitomize “The Spirit of Adventure.”

He’s a little startled about being chosen Grand Marshall, as he describes himself as a solitary person. But Smith has accepted the honor, in spite of the fact that he might have to shed his overalls and get into a suit. Find a clean hat, too.


The committee chairing the fair parade started searching a list for a theme. Chair Kris Musick said they then eliminated themes. “This year was tough,” she stated. “I thought it (Spirit of Adventure) was most fitting, because there’s a lot of adventure around here.”

As usual, classes include business, religious, open class, equestrian and organization. Ribbons will be awarded in each class.

The parade route will begin at the Imperial Manor and then proceed east on 10th Street to Broadway, where it will turn south past a judges’ stand in the downtown area.

Entry forms will be printed in this newspaper. Musick said the deadline to enter is August 17 and no later.