Couple celebrates 72 years at the Panhandle South Plains Fair - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Couple celebrates 72 years at the Panhandle South Plains Fair

Arlee and Bonnie Gowen Arlee and Bonnie Gowen

Arlee Gowen and his wife Bonnie have been going to the South Plains Fair for 72 years.

"I had seen her in the distance but finally got up enough courage to ask her on a date. Our first date was right here at the Panhandle South Plains Fair," Arlee said.

Arlee was nervous for that first date, which had a rocky start.

"I had to explain to her that I spent all my money getting the car fixed and she wouldn't be able to ride the hammer or the Ferris Wheel or all those things the girls love to do. She was so relieved," Arlee said, laughing.

They were walking down the arcade taking in the sights when a carnival worker invited Bonnie to play a game.

"You know the game where you take a hammer and you hit a peg and the icon goes up?" he said. "Well, she gave a little love tap and it went clear to the top and rang the bell."

After seeing her display of power, the carnival worker asked Bonnie to see how many times she could win. Eventually, a crowd of people circled to watch this "young beautiful woman" play the game, but Bonnie wasn't done winning.

"Everything she did was a winner," Arlee said. "She pitched a penny into a saucer and got a quarter. She could do that all day."

By the time they ended that first date, Arlee and Bonnie had more money than they brought in, and had taken the first steps toward a life-long love. Arlee and Bonnie have been married for 68 years.

"I thought he was neat," Bonnie said. "It was fun."

"It's a special date to us. We always go to the South Plains Fair to commemorate our first date," Arlee said.

But this year, a trip to the fair seemed unlikely.

"We've stacked some years on since our first trip out here. We were probably not able to do a whole lot of walking," Arlee said.

Manicurist/Pedicurist Deborah Scott heard Arlee and Bonnie's story and wasn't going to let mobility get in the way of their first date anniversary.

"They came in to get pedicures and started telling me their story," she said. "I just thought it was a wonderful love story and tradition that they have continued, and I wanted to do what I could to help them continue that."

Deborah spoke with officials at the fair who agreed to let her bring a golf cart to take Arlee and Bonnie around.

"In today's time I don't think you hear of marriages that last that long. I just thought it was a wonderful story that he had to tell me. He's still so in love with his wife today," Deborah said.

As Deborah drove Bonnie and Arlee around, they both looked forward to one particular building.

"We're going to look at the antiques, being one myself," Arlee said. "I feel right at home with the antique display."

Arlee hopes he and his wife will be able to go to the fair next year. He says his wife is still as beautiful as she was on that first date.

For more information about the 2013 Panhandle South Plains Fair, you can visit their website at

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