worked to help get the grounds ready for the 2014 Monroe County Fair. (Kermit Constantine photo)
When the 67th Monroe County Fair opens its gates this Sunday, it will offer eight days of opportunities for young and old alike to learn more about the agricultural roots of the area while enjoying a wide range of activities that appeal to country and city folk alike.
“What makes our fair great is our livestock entries are holding strong, we have a lot of great ag displays of equipment, which is all good for a county fair to represent the ag community,” Monroe County Fair Association Secretary George Obernagel said. “At a lot of other county fairs, their entries are going down.”
New this year will be a Kloepper card tournament starting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday under the beer pavilion, sponsored by Stumpy’s Spirits.
The main festivities kick off Sunday evening with the Little Miss and Miss Monroe County Fair pageants at 7 and 8 p.m, respectively. Watch as 10 little girls ages 5-7, and six young women from every corner of the county vie for the coveted titles.
During intermission of the Fair Queen portion of the pageant, there will once again be a pie auction to raise money for a good cause by selling pies baked by the queen contestants to the highest bidders.
This year’s Miss Illinois County Fair Queen, Summer Robbins, will be in attendance at the Monroe County Fair Queen Pageant on Sunday night.
On Monday, 4-H and FFA animal judging begins, and the evening is highlighted by the Farmer’s Class Tractor Pull and ITPA Truck Pull, starting at 6:30 p.m., in the main arena.
Tuesday continues with animal judging all day, the open class horse show at 6 p.m., an antique tractor pull at 7 p.m., and 4×4 street truck and 10,000 pound ISPA tractor pulls, also at 7 p.m.
Wednesday morning features one of the fair’s most popular events for kids – the rooster crowing contest. Roosters of all shapes and sizes compete to see who can crow the most. That evening is the popular Figure 8 race, in which the brave drivers of small and large cars and small trucks try to navigate a figure 8 in the main arena while dodging walls, barricades and each other to be the first to complete their laps.
Thursday is carnival armband night, when kids who have purchased armbands at any of the several locations selling them around the county, or at the gate, can enjoy unlimited rides while their parents enjoy the music of Butch Wax and Hollywoods, presented by HTC. In the evening, the always popular 4-H livestock auction takes place at 6 p.m., when poultry, rabbits, cattle, goats, lamb and swine will be auctioned to the highest bidders. Proceeds from the auction benefit local 4-H and youth programs.
And for the first time, a Budweiser Clydesdale will make an appearance from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday while country radio station WIL 92.3 FM will broadcast live from the fair that same night. Admission is free all day and evening.
Friday’s feature event is the demolition derby, which draws some of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds of the fair as they root for – and sometimes against – large and small cars. New to this year’s derby will be a Pro-Mod class, which features more specialized cars than other classes. Those wanting to participate in this or any other class of this year’s derby can still sign up until the day of the event.
On Saturday, the fair begins to wind down, but not before the heavy horse show, mule show, and heavy horse and mule hitch classes. The evening event is the ITPA truck and tractor pull starting at 6 p.m., with live music in the beer pavilion until midnight.
The week wraps up Sunday with mini horse and mini donkey judging at 10:30 a.m., carnival armband day from 4 to 9 p.m., and FFA Fun Night at 6:30 p.m., in the main arena.
Admission is free every day until 3 p.m., then varies by evening.
County fairs across Illinois are shuttering their arenas as state funding for the events is reduced and interest in the livestock competitions dwindles.
But the Monroe County Fair remains self-sustaining, even in light of drastically reduced state funds, and continues to see attendance numbers and entries holding strong.
By law, the state is supposed to pay a 66 2/3 percent premium reimbursement for county fairs. Right now, the state is only paying out about 17 percent.
“That spread is just getting too large for some county fairs to keep going,” Obernagel said. “Thankfully, we feel ours will survive due to its solid attendance from year to year and all of the volunteers who take their time to help.”
For a complete list of events, times, rules and regulations, pick up a fair guide at any of the local banks, gas stations and grocery stores, or visit www.MonoeCounty-Fair.org.