GC: Meet the face behind the Hallettsville Market Days/Fiddler's Frolic

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

April 3, 2012 at 4 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.

Not a small feat to boast, the venue at the KC Hall is large enough to host more than 150 vendors and can bring visitors from all over the Golden Crescent and beyond.

Fryer wears many hats in Hallettsville and took some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for GC.

How did you get involved in Hallettsville Market Days?

I'm a potter and as part of a way to market my pottery, I went to various markets in the area. Through that, I realized Hallettsville was in a wonderful position to have its own market. One of the reasons (the Knights of Columbus Hall) is such a great facility is because its location. We are centrally located between Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Victoria, and we are drawing vendors from all those areas. We're drawing vendors from about a 200-mile radius, which is pretty amazing for a day market.

As a potter, do you sell anything at the Market Days?

Yes. I still sell my pottery, although I don't know if I am going to continue just because I am so busy running the market.

Is it hard to be both the organizer and the vendor?

I don't know of any other market where the operator is also a vendor. It gives me a really unique perspective. I know what the vendors go through, and I know what is important to them. We are vendor-friendly. The vendors are my customers, so I need it to work for them. Being a vendor myself, I think I have a really good insight into that.

Do you think that changes the relationship with the vendors?

It does make for a different situation. I am good friends with a lot of the vendors. You become a family. Some of the vendors make really good money, and then there are a number where this is their social life. You're spending the day with them and watching each others' booths.

How long have you been involved in Market Days now?

We started in November 2009. This is not just a for-profit venture. It is a joint venture with the Knights of Columbus. They profit share with me.

How did you become a part of Fiddler's Frolic?

I married into it. My husband's father and two other men started Fiddler's Frolic 42 years ago, and it has really grown from there. Actually, Fiddler's Frolic is what built this facility into what it is now. It is the hub of so many activities that draws in people. It's a huge asset. This is one of the largest Knights of Columbus halls in Texas.

What are you in charge of for Fiddler's Frolic?

Two areas: I help with all the marketing and advertising for the whole event, and then my husband and I run the fiddle contest part.

What kind of work does that include?

Registering all the contestants, selecting judges, selecting hall of fame people, getting the emcees coordinated, making sure all the contestants are on stage, tabulating all the scores from the judges, and getting checks and prices from all the people. The other thing that has become our tradition is Saturday night of the contest, my husband and I host a party at our house for all the contestants and their families. It's crazy. It's a party at our house for somewhere between 350 to 500 people.

What's on the menu for the party?

All my friends help and cook - it is not a catered deal. Since they come from all over the country, and other countries as well, we want to show them what Texas barbecue is. We get all of our friends together and we cook about 160 pounds of beef, 50 pounds of sausage, 16 pounds of beans and more. I have great friends. And then all the contestants jam and it goes on until the early hours of the morning.

Do you play the fiddle?

No. I'm a groupie. My husband and I really are big fans of fiddle music. I wish I could fiddle, but I think it's a little late for me to start.

Do you have a really memorable experience that stands out in your mind?

Not that I could put in print. Lots of memorable experiences. Fiddlers, for the most part, are incredibly gifted musicians, but as such, they are more on the artistic and free-spirit side. They are so much fun.

I'm in charge of tabulating all the scores, and one time in the last round, the three final contestants for the championship were on stage, and the judges tell them to play this kind of tune. There is no practice or warm up - they just play. It's round-robin and I'm sitting there at my computer and it's close. It came down to, out of 2,400 points, scores that were within one point. I was like, 'Let's double check this.' It was just so close.

How did you land your job as a petroleum landman?

I got lucky. Before this, I worked as a low-income housing inspector. I traveled all over the country inspecting tax-credit properties, and I had been in some really rough places. That contract ended and I just thought, 'How can I make some money living here in Hallettsville? I could work at the cafe, I could work at Walmart as a greeter, and then I thought, oil and gas, I think I'd really like that.' I started talking to people and I just got lucky they gave me a chance. So it's safe to say you're not from here then, right?

I was raised on a farm in Illinois. But it was a very German community, so coming to Hallettsville with the Germans and Czechs here, and being so agriculturally-oriented, was just like home for me.

What is your job like as a petroleum landman?

I absolutely love it most days. I handle unit ratifications, and what that means is that when people have their property leased, I take all the paperwork back to the people to let them know their land is going to be drilled. It's like telling people that they've won the lottery. There's going to be so many people who'll be millionaires around here. I love the touching stories of people who have worked and struggled all their lives, trying to make a living, ranching on 200 acres and now, all of a sudden, they're going to have an oil or gas well.

Can you share one of those stories with us?

There was one woman who was 85, she had just gotten out of the hospital, with health issues and wasn't doing well, but she said, 'I'm excited. It's not going to make one difference in my life, but this changes my grandkids' lives. My own kids yes, but it sets it up so they'll be able to go to college and have a secure future. My husband and I worked so hard to make a living and now it's really paid off.'

It's just so touching.

Another time there was this woman who lived a simple lifestyle and worked hard. Her daughter was a single mother and she goes, 'You know, I just can't wait till we getting some of the checks actually in because I am hoping that I can save up over a year or so. She's living in a house that needs a new roof and I want to be able to help her get this new roof.'

I hated to tell her that probably, the check that she was about to get in the first two or three months could have bought her daughter a new house. But I can't make those promises like that.

This woman's expectations are so good and so simple, and wow, what a wonderful thing and a blessing for that to happen.

After hearing all about your busy schedule, when do you find time to make pottery?

Usually in the evenings and weekends. I've decided that sleep is an optional item. I can get on a roll and can work pretty late some nights or get up early. It's not unusual for me to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and start glazing a load of pottery. You have no idea how much pottery I have thrown in my pajamas. If I had to choose, OK, what's the one thing, you really want to do? I would love to lock myself in my studio. I love to listen to books on tape and music, but more books, and work through a few bags of clay.

When you do get some spare time, if you're not throwing clay, what do you like to do?

Between Fiddler's Frolic, and I'm on the Chamber board, there's just not a whole lot of time.



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