Fort Bend County Commissioner James Patterson and his wife, Mary Jo, have been named as the 2018 Fort Bend County Fair honorees.
The Patterson family has been a remarkable supporter and has spent countless hours bidding, buying, cheering, and enjoying the fair.
“To us, the Fort Bend County Fair has always been a major part of what Fort Bend County stands for. The pride of the students and the accomplishments that they are able to show, truly help youngsters grow up to be leaders, not only in Fort Bend County but across the country. For us to be chosen as honorees is an amazing honor,” Commissioner Patterson said.
Known for their service to the community, auctioneering talents, and champions of education, Patterson and his wife were both raised with core country-life values.
“We both grew up in the country, and as a high school principal, I saw the difference that our agricultural and Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs made in kids’ lives. As I became county commissioner, we realized that there was more to the fair than the FFA and ag projects and began to support the art auction and the commercial heifer sale,” he said.
The Pattersons have been married for 53 years and have called Sugar Land their home for 47 years. Behind the tall civil servant, whose auctioneering talents have benefited many charities and churches has been the strength of Mary Jo Patterson. Together, they have been able to touch many lives with their commitments to the community, charities, and through their extended family. The Patterson family has been instrumental in The Arc of Fort Bend County and countless other organizations. As a family, they have been attending the fair for decades.
“In the early years, from 1965 to 1999 we attended the parade, took our children and then our grandchildren to the carnival and rodeo, occasionally to the fair’s auction,” Mrs. Patterson said. “When James became county commissioner, we continued to attend all those things and then got involved in the four different auctions.”
This year, the Fort Bend Auction Buyers Group will be marking their 50th year of commitment. The group is an allegiance of individuals who commit financially to support the fair’s exhibitors. Patterson was a founding member of the group and continues to be active in the organization’s success. In 2017 the Buyers Group raised $37,700 with 132 members and impacted the lives of 154 students through direct contributions and bidding at the auctions.
“We are extremely pleased and proud of the community’s support of our Buyers Group. This group has grown to over 100 supporters each year and has continued to help a large number of students every year,” Patterson said.
Through the years, the Pattersons have seen the Fair evolve into the iconic event it is today.
“First, when the county purchased all the land between the fairgrounds and Highway 36, we guaranteed a great visual presence for the Fair from then on. We have seen the fairgrounds and the buildings be steadily improved, and the Fair board and the community work more as a team,” Patterson said.
In 2017 the George Pavilion was dedicated at the fairgrounds, a construction project that took a team effort to see to fruition. Patterson, who saw the project from the beginning said, “The ability for all youngsters’ projects to be under the same roof on a good solid footing with excellent ventilation and fans came as a huge source of pride for the whole community. The fact that the George Pavilion is a first-class facility designed and built with quality but reserve.”
The Patterson family members are proud veteran fair-goers. They have participated in the parade, enjoyed the carnival, and have eaten dozens of tamales from the St. John Fisher’s fair-food booth for decades.
“Seeing the excitement of the kids, the hard work of the Fair board and volunteers, and the pride our community has in the Fair,” Patterson said is what keeps the family involved. He added that his favorite part of the fair is, “The Special Needs Rodeo that the Magana family produces,” referring to the Exceptional Rodeo for children with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Patterson recently had an elementary school named after him in the Fort Bend ISD. Patterson Elementary is the 50th elementary school in the district. He also supported the district’s naming of three agricultural facilities honoring agricultural educators, Jimmy Klemstein, Ronnie Davis, and Bonnie Beard.
The Pattersons have one son, two daughters, two sons-in-laws, two grandsons, one granddaughter and one great-grandson. The Fort Bend County Fair runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 7 and will be celebrating its 82nd year.