Visit your local county fair

“Back in Business” is the theme chosen for the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs’ (IAAF) upcoming state convention in January 2022.

After a one-year hiatus, fairs in Illinois are planning to make 2021 bigger and better than ever.

Fairs in Illinois and across the nation are true Americana. Prior to the founding of our nation, fairs were a cornerstone of bringing communities together.

Several years ago, the IAAF commissioned an impact study by the University of Illinois to help the public and our legislators understand the true effect fairs have on our state. This study concluded that fairs and businesses associated with the industry generated $170 million. These are taxable dollars which turn over and over, thus supporting our economy.

Fairs, both large and small, are a boon to our community. While fairs receive a small amount in state financial support, the industry returns a large amount back to Illinois.

While I can only speak for the Sandwich Fair (DeKalb County) on which I am a board member and officer, I believe most fairs were able to retain the entertainment previously contracted for 2020 to perform in 2021. The fair industry was placed in a difficult situation, thus allowing for much cooperation.

Food, sights, sounds, carnival attractions, entertainment and people all come to mind when we think about fairs.

When analyzing county fairs, the local community must be considered. Fairs bring together businesses, service groups and churches to generate revenue supporting their activities and programs. Fairs bring communities together. When you converse with locals, they always refer to the fair as “our fair.” Great pride is taken by all concerned. Many people treat the fair as a reunion with family and friends.

Fairs are a showcase for agriculture and provide many educational opportunities. Guests can learn about breeds of livestock, their different uses, and the time it takes for proper feeding and care. If lucky enough to be visiting a livestock barn at the right time, they may see the birth of a calf or some other species. Folks who have not grown up with livestock have many questions and exhibitors are always willing to answer, which educates the public.

The horticulture building brings joy to patrons. Many will spend hours looking at displays of corn, vegetables, flowers and seed corn brands. Some exhibits show how much the largest pumpkin weighs or the height of sunflowers. These entrants take great pride in choosing examples for their displays.

Home arts are another huge draw. The canning, baked goods, quilts and needlework are a sight to behold as are photography and wood working. The talent these exhibitors bring to their hobbies bring patrons from far and wide.

Fairs bring lifetime memories to exhibitors and family members such as showing the Champion Junior Holstein Heifer, winning the Farmers Stock Class at the tractor pull or gathering the entire family for carnival rides and a meal of BBQ porkchops. All bring a lifetime of priceless family memories.

Fair season is fast approaching. Fair boards across the state are devoting many hours to entertaining, educating and providing family fun and wonderful memories to young and old.

Please come out and support your local county fair.