Russell Pierson, 99, continues longtime service to national competition

Volunteer says the National Land and Range Judging Contest is important to the state and nation.
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: May 2, 2011
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The teens match their skills in judging the adaptability of the land for various purposes, including farming, range management and home development. The skills the teens apply at the contest involve principles they can use in career fields such as environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, home building and construction, said Don Bartolina, 74, coordinator for the contest and the Oklahoma County Conservation District manager.

They are competing for trophies and recognition.

“It's an important event that teaches young people about natural resources,” said Bartolina, who has been involved with the contest for 50 years. “And since youngsters have to compete for their own state, there's a sense of pride.

“A few years ago, a team from Nebraska won and when they got back to their small town, the police and fire department met them at the city limits and escorted them through town.”

Sleeping in

Don't think for a second the contest is the only time Pierson is out and about. You can find him about any day in the east end office of Barn 4 at State Fair Park. This is where they handle the feed and bedding for show animals. Pierson will be answering the phone, or just visiting “with all the good people.”

By the time I met up with him at 9 o'clock on a recent morning, I knew Pierson had already been in the office for at least a couple of hours.

So I asked, “Russell, what time do you wake up in the morning?”

In doing so, I set myself up for another reply in which he waited for my reaction.

“Not as early as when I did radio and television, because back then I would wake up at 2:30 a.m.,” he said. “Now I sleep in until about 5 o'clock in the morning.”

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