Fairgoers at this year's Effingham County Fair will be encouraged to both celebrate the fair's glorious past and look ahead to what is hoped to be an equally glorious future.
Fair Board President Phil Hartke said this year's theme of "Proud of our Past ... Faith in the Future" is more than appropriate for what has become one of the most celebrated fairs in downstate Illinois.
"Even though many fairs across the state have had tough times, we've had success," Hartke said. "We have traditionally been one of the stronger fairs in Illinois and we expect that to continue."
Hartke said a top-notch fair board and extensive community support has helped the Effingham County Fair weather some of the figurative storms that have plagued other county fairs in the state.
Hartke said few changes have been made to the grounds for this year's fair, with the notable exception of a camping area that will be located west and north of the racetrack. Hartke said workers will still be busy installing electric lines and pea gravel to finish off the project.
The 69th annual fair kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday with the Tonns of Fun Inflatable objects that include not only the standard bouncy houses, but a 60-foot obstacle course. Hartke said the board decided to bring in the Tonn operation after scheduling and personnel issues caused the regular carnival to be late during last year's fair.
The Tonn show will only run through the first three days of the fair, after which time the carnival should be fully operable.
While next week's fair will continue to offer such standbys as harness racing, musical entertainment, a queen pageant, 4-H animal shows and many other events, Hartke said there will be a couple of new events that might interest the public.
For the younger set, Saturday morning will be the place to play dodgeball. Supervised by Altamont High School coaches John Niebrugge and Peggy Bueker, kids from third grade through high school will be separated into age groups for the competition that runs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 10.
Another new event will be held during breaks in the ever-popular demolition derby on that same Saturday night. Hartke said the promoter will bring in 12 riding lawn mowers that will be used to play lawn mower soccer. The mowers will be driven around in an effort to move a 30-inch ball toward a goal.
This year's demolition derby has a twist, as well. Longtime driver Joe Cripe has built a second car that a member of the public will drive. Prospective drivers will be able to buy $10 tickets and three for $25 for a chance to drive the car.Those tickets are available at the fair office anytime before 3 p.m. Aug. 10, several hours before the derby.
As always, the derby will wrap up the fair for another year.
For complete information on the fair, fair booklets are available at the Effingham Daily News and a number of other locations throughout the county or visit www.effinghamcountyfair.com.
For a look at this year's pageant contestants, see the Farm Fair section in today's edition.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.