Smooth sailing at this year’s fair

From left, Thomas Newcom, 3, and Skylar Newcom, 5, of Columbia enjoy the dragon ride during Carnival Armband Night at the Monroe County Fair on Thursday. For more photos from fair week, visit (John Spytek photo)

Mild temperatures and largely clear skies brought out the masses last week to the 70th annual Monroe County Fair.

“It was just a great fair this year,” said Monroe County Fair Association Secretary George Obernagel. “It went extremely well.”

After dangerously high temperatures in the days leading up to the opening of the fair, the heat and humidity dropped and fairgoers came out in force.

Wednesday morning’s Rooster Crow Contest had a record 34 entrants and a large crowd of onlookers watched as Vince Gonzalez’s rooster Taco bested his opponents with 48 crows.

The number of livestock entries was largely the same as last year, Obernagel confirmed. While some categories saw small drops in entrants, others had increases. The same can be said of attendance.

“The rain hurt (our attendance) numbers Wednesday and Thursday but the latter part of the week was perfect,” Obernagel said.

Typically muggy Midwestern summer weather made a brief return Wednesday and Thursday, with highs in the mid-90s, threatening clouds and a few rain showers. But Friday’s clear, mild evening drew the largest crowd ever to attend the always popular demolition derby.

Gate receipts for the night handily topped last year’s record-setting $44,000. Beer sales were strong as well.

“It was the biggest attendance we’ve ever had at the demo derby,” Obernagel said.

Thursday’s 4-H and FFA livestock auction netted $139,042, which is about $6,000 less than last year. The total number of animals for sale was 139. Money raised through the auction goes directly to support youth programs in Monroe County throughout the year.

No significant police or medical incidents were reported this year. And although Figure 8 action was halted just after 9 p.m., when an outage at an Ameren substation in Valmeyer interrupted the transmission of Monroe County Electric Co-op service to the fairgrounds and other areas of the county, the lights started coming back on within about 10 minutes as generators took over and the race resumed.

Power was fully restored within an hour.

“The county loaned us the generators this year,” Obernagel said. “We are very thankful to the EMA for the use of them.”

New to the fair this year was a baby show Sunday evening, hosted by the Magnolia Terrace senior living apartments at Oak Hill. Tots up to age 2 went head to head in the categories of best smile, prettiest or most handsome and best fair attire.

The 2017 Monroe County Farm Family was the Mike and Ellen Middendorf family. Along with their children Josh and Riley, the Middendorfs earned the trophy Sunday evening for receiving the largest number of points on entries and placings at this year’s fair.

The closing event of the fair — FFA Fun Night — drew another sizeable crowd to watch as students from the FFA programs at Columbia, Gibault, Red Bud, Valmeyer and Waterloo high schools compete against each other in a series of fun ag-related challenges including hay bale throwing, egg tossing and tug-of-war.

At the end of the evening, the students from the Valmeyer FFA chapter stood victorious.

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