Although Illinois’ financial situation has caused other county fairs to struggle or disappear, the Monroe County Fair continued going strong again this year.
“It was a banner year, the weather was perfect and things were good,” Monroe County Fair Association President Don Schrader said.
That was a sentiment echoed by Monroe County Fair Association Secretary George Obernagel.
“I think this fair was a great year,” Obernagel said. “There was a lot of great livestock shows, great entertainment, more demo cars than last year and a great tractor pull. I think it was one of the best year’s we’ve ever had with weather and people participating in the events.”
The fair saw high temperatures mostly in the 80s, though the thermometer may have approached 90 degrees once or twice. It rained Thursday and Sunday afternoon, but the attendance numbers were still strong.
“Attendance was one of the best years ever,” Schrader said. “It exceeded last year with the exception of Monday night. Monday was a little slow. The rest of the week was up and above.”
The biggest event of the fair, the auto demolition derby, once again drew a massive crowd.
Last year, attendance topped the previous year’s record of $44,000 collected at the gates. This year, estimates show the Friday night event grew again.
“It’s hard to say what ticket sales are because so many passes are there, but it was over a record crowd,” Obernagel said.
The demo derby included two newcomers, Jim Probst and Steve Frank, to the announcers booth. They provided local flavor with a touch of humor.
The 4-H and FFA market animal auction also saw a record, with the Thursday evening event earning $148,000.
“Entries were as high as they have been in the last seven or eight years,” Schrader noted. “That was another good landmark.”
Likewise, sales from the food stands exceeded last year’s numbers.
“People ate and enjoyed themselves at lunch times as well as evenings,” Schrader said. “Our lunch crowd at our food stands has really grown over the last couple of years.”
Another highlight was FFA Fun Night, which closed out the fair on Sunday night. Due to inclement weather, the event took place beneath the cow barn instead of the main arena for the first time in years.
Despite the change of venue, the winner was a familiar one as the Columbia FFA contingent won for the fourth time in the last five years.
For winning the competition, the team received a trophy and $250.
The 2018 Monroe County Fair Family was a new winner, though, as the Gary and Kelly Brandt family won. The family, which also includes sons Garrett and Cohen, won the trophy for receiving the largest number of points on entries and placings at the fair.
Throughout all the week’s events, there were hardly any problems requiring police or EMS.
A disturbance during the demo derby on Friday night required police intervention, but that marked the only noteworthy kerfuffle.
“There were no major incidents, no heart attacks, no cuts or any problems with animals,” Obernagel said.