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Not-so-newly marrieds get their own game at fair

They met at a wedding in May 1946. They flirted, started dating, and four months later, rode the Tunnel of Love at the Kansas State Fair.

Sixty-four years later, Freddy and Norma Jean Simon are the Kansas State Fair's first official "Sentimental Sweethearts," and they have the matching blue and pink pageant sashes to prove it.

The Simons were the big winners in the fair's first "Not So Newlywed Game," a contest that pitted long-married couples against one another to see who knew each other best. It was staged in the Encampment Building on Wednesday afternoon and was modeled after "The Newlywed Game," a popular game show.

The Simons of Wichita — he's the namesake for the Freddy's Frozen Custard chain — have been married for 63 years and know each other well enough to agree that he loves napping, that "It's a Wonderful Life" is the movie title that best describes their marriage and that "Falling in Love is Wonderful" is their song.

"It's nice to see so many couples married that long who know each other so well," said Simon, who just before the game led a presentation about his experiences serving in World War II.

Fair officials have in the past few years tried to cater to their more mature audience — or the "chronologically gifted," as the fair called the 60-plus crowd when advertising Wednesday as "Sentimental Journey" day.

In previous years, they've issued special Wednesday invitations to members of the Red Hat Society, an organization of older ladies known for their red hats and purple outfits. But numbers had declined over the years, so this year, organizers decided to renew interest with new senior-focused activities.

Simon's speech drew more than 225 people, 60 of whom were World War II veterans. Several stayed for the "Not So Newlywed Game," which featured four couples who had been married an average of 59 years.

In the weeks leading up to the fair, a dozen couples submitted letters nominating themselves to compete, and Internet votes determined three of the couples who would take the stage. A fourth was chosen at random on-site.

The crowd favorites were Gordon and Carol Ehling from Abbyville, who fell in love 62 years ago while working in a chicken hatchery. They were married in 1950 and had four children.

On Wednesday, the pair attended the fair in color-coordinated outfits and learned they'd received the most Internet votes. But they could barely agree on a single answer to the game's questions. He said he preferred to fish. She said he preferred to nap. He said he's a horrible cook. She said his housekeeping is worse. She said he's the Clint Eastwood type. He saw himself more like Paul Newman.

"How long have you two known each other?" the game moderator, Warren Hardy, asked the couple with a laugh.

The fair's version of the Newlywed Game managed to avoid the "making whoopee" questions that its television counterpart was so well known for.

But one of the couples had to go there.

Pressed to guess how his wife had filled in the blank on the question, "My husband is the world's worst ..." one of the contestants surprised the crowd with his answer.

"Lover," he said.

"Gardener," she said.

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