Monroe County Fair Celebrates 75 Years | Republic Times

Early Monroe County newspapers mention a “county fair” as early as 1871.

Until 1948, the gathering was a loose affiliation of local farmers showcasing the best of the year’s crops and livestock.

When the Monroe County Fair Association was formed in 1948 with just a handful of board members, the goal was much the same, but with an emphasis on community celebration.

The first official Monroe County Fair was held September 3-4 at Pautler Park in Waterloo, near what is now the intersection of Route 3 and Route 156.

This two-day celebration coincided with the annual Waterloo Homecoming in an effort to maximize participant visibility and gather feedback on future improvements.

“It’s your fair”, the Waterloo Times written before the inaugural event. “It was organized to provide show facilities with cash bonuses to encourage the production and display of better livestock and crops in Monroe County. Your interest, cooperation and suggestions can make it a worthwhile business.

Since that first fair 75 years ago, it has become a worthwhile undertaking. This led to the establishment of the current Monroe County Fairgrounds off Route 156 in 1965 and has grown into a week-long tradition – and one of the most anticipated annual community events in the county.

Monroe County Fair Association President Don Schrader said the ongoing goal is “to make the best fair better.”

The Monroe County Fair opens this Sunday, July 24. With improvements and additions over the past seven decades and counting, and a number since last year’s fair, the 75th anniversary fair aims to be the best yet.

One of the biggest changes this year is the addition of almost 1,000 seats to the stands in the main arena, where many of the most popular attractions take place, such as the figure-eight race and the demolition derby .

“One gap that needed to be filled was the capacity of our arena,” said Monroe County Fair Association vice president Ron Mueller, adding that the association began planning ways to improve the fairgrounds as soon as it ended. of the 2021 fair.

The combination of new and existing seats will provide over 940 additional seats. Seating on the north side of the arena was constructed on 230 feet of concrete and is enclosed by a new chain-link fence.

The additions bring the total capacity of the main arena to 6,231 spectators.

Also in the main arena, the announcer’s booth has been improved both structurally and with respect to the fairground speaker system around the stands and in the stables and dairy barns.

These new systems have been added to improve sound quality for both the public and show attendees.

Monroe County Fair Queen and Little Miss Pageant contestants will also have better gear this Sunday night than in years past.

Schwarze Trailer Repair took the plans from the contest committee and converted a 45ft refrigerated trailer into changing rooms and a conference room. Mueller said this will eliminate the need for multiple travel trailers used in previous contests.

Additionally, the stage trailer and new dressing room trailer will be connected, eliminating the need to walk into the arena’s dirt field. In addition to improving safety, the change eliminates any chance of someone getting dirt or mud on their pageant gear, Mueller said.

Volunteers at the fair’s beer token stand will get a very welcome upgrade with the addition of air conditioning in the front stand which is forecast to be hot with triple digit temperatures over the weekend and in the mid to mid to late 20s. 90 during the week.

Weather was a concern at other fairs – particularly in 1973 when the end of the fair was delayed due to three-inch rain on Thursday.

“Mother Nature will do what she wants,” Schrader said, noting that community and association members have shown in the past that they will be content with whatever conditions exist.

An example of the fair’s flexibility is illustrated by a necessary adjustment to poultry shows due to ongoing bird flu concerns. While the rooster crowing contest had to be canceled, the fair’s board of directors and 4-H clubs through the Monroe County University Extension Office in Illinois have a way for young exhibitors to gain further experience in competition.

The Junior Poultry Show will run as it normally would – with cages and participants talking about their birds – but the presentation will be with pictures in the cages rather than the actual animals.

Monroe County 4-H Youth Program and Development Coordinator Kelly Brandt said it’s important to give young farmers a presentation experience, even without the option of having live animals on site.

Schrader said the cooperation of organizations such as the U of I Extension, local businesses and other community partnerships is what has helped the fair remain a Monroe County staple.

The relationship is also a reason why improvements continue to be made at the fairgrounds.

Schrader said the fair association — which now has nearly two dozen members and superintendents in addition to numerous volunteers — continues to work to make the fairgrounds a place where the community can gather throughout. the year, not just during the week of the fair.

The Fairgrounds hosts annual events such as the Monroe County Sheep Farmers’ Sheep and Craft Festival in the spring and the Waterloo Band Parents Flea Market during the Easter Sunday weekend. Work.

A recently installed 30-by-50-foot message board near the east entrance to the fairgrounds has been set up to keep the community informed of events.

Also new to the fair this year will be the inaugural Monroe County Wine Competition for local winemakers.

Also for the 75th anniversary there will be a special stand with photos and memorabilia from the fair in the commercial building for people to view at their leisure.

The Monroe County Pork Farmers Food Stand is making a comeback this year, which is back after a two-year absence. There were no pork burgers in 2021 and the entire fair was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Another element making a comeback after many years is a fireworks display after FFA Fun Night on July 31st.

The fireworks seem like a fitting way to signal the end of the 75th anniversary of the Monroe County Fair and also mark the start of the next 75 years.

To find out more about the fair, including a detailed schedule of events, see the special section in this week’s newspaper or visit monroecounty-fair.org.

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