The main questions circulating among the community these days deal with whether or not there will be a Monroe County Fair in 2021 and if so, will it be like years past?
These answers are not easy, according to Monroe County Fair Association President Don Schrader. However, he said there are some encouraging signs.
“The Illinois State Fair office in Springfield is telling us we should plan for a fair,” Schrader said. “The state is conducting carnival inspections, and liquor licenses are being issued – two things that didn’t happen in 2020. So, we are putting plans together.”
Schrader added there was a strong turnout for the recent Little Miss and Queen Pageant sign-up. Registration for the Demo Derby and Figure 8 races is April 3, and tractor pulls have already been booked for the 2021 fair.
Schrader noted that the fair board is moving ahead cautiously with its planning for a fair July 18-25.
“Our number one concern is the safety of all the people involved,” he said. “We will not do anything without the approval of the Monroe County Health Department. Any events that have taken place at the fairgrounds since the pandemic started have been approved by them.”
The fair board has been in contact with local civic organizations and food vendors, with almost all confirming they will be back if there is a fair. The question remains, however, as to what guidelines will be in place at that time.
“The continuation of the distribution of vaccines is key, and hopefully the numbers of positive cases continue to go down,” Schrader stressed. “This will definitely help in getting approval to move forward.”
Schrader sounds optimistic there will be a Monroe County Fair this summer, but how it works is still not certain.
“I am feeling good about the possibility of having our county fair, but will it be just like it has been in the past? Time will tell,” Schrader said. “Health and safety is our top priority and the fair board will not do anything without the approval of the health department. If we have a fair, we would hope to have the support of the public. We feel everyone is ready for some outdoor fun, but if some don’t feel comfortable, we certainly understand.”
Schrader said the hardest part of canceling last year’s fair was the effect on local young 4-H and FFA members.
“It’s all about the kids. They work so hard all year in preparation for the fair,” he said.
The Monroe County Extension & 4-H Education Foundation and the Youth Livestock Auction Committee are in the process of planning a 2021 livestock auction to support local youth. The group is exploring various options with the hope of a live auction. However, virtual plans are also being considered if the need arises.
One main consideration of the committee is being mindful of current economic conditions and the impact local businesses have faced.
“We understand that some businesses and community members who have historically supported 4-H and FFA members in the past may not be in a financial position to participate in the auction this year,” 4-H program coordinator Kelly Brandt said. “With this in mind, the committee decided each youth will be limited to selling only one animal to reduce the total number of animals being auctioned this year.
Anyone with questions, feedback or concerns on this matter may contact the Monroe County U of I Extension office at 618-939-3434.
“Believe me, it has been very challenging for the fair board,” Schrader said. “We just don’t know what the future holds. But indications are that the health department will have some answers and some guidelines by the beginning of May. We are very hopeful.”