ALTAMONT— The Effingham County Fairgrounds were quiet Sunday afternoon, and the only sound to be heard was music playing over the loudspeaker.
The once bustling midway was back to an empty field of grass after Luehr's Ideal Rides packed up their amusement rides Saturday night. Signs and banners still hung from the permanent concession stand, and a lone harness racer took his horse around the track one more time.
The 75th annual Effingham County Fair wrapped up the night before following a week of highly attended events.
The demolition derby Saturday evening beat the 2018 record for entries. This year, 63 demolition derby drivers competed in the all-female, truck, compact, semi-stock and modified classes, up eight entries from last year.
The truck class was brought back to the derby this year at the request of truck derby competitors such as Jason and Justin Kenter of Teutopolis. The brothers were two of seven truck derby drivers, and Jason took first place while Justin nabbed third.
The 12-car modified class feature event went to Corey Budde of Fairfield. The stock class drew in a record 21 entries, with Kirby Manuel of Pana taking the win.
Effingham County Fair Board President Phil Hartke said the derby brought in a crowd of 3,500 people.
The Josh Turner concert Friday night was played in front of a sold out crowd of 4,000 people. The concert ended with the first-ever firework show to mark the fair's 75th anniversary.
Hartke said the concert was one of the largest the fair has ever held.
"The most exciting thing for the fair board was the very successful Josh Turner program," Hartke said. "It was the largest attended concert at the fair. The concert was so well received. We can't say enough good things about the concert."
Hartke said though the firework display was meant to be a one-time show, the board is thinking of bringing it back to next year's fair.
The first night of the fair was also well-attended, Hartke said, as the Professional Pulling League competitions brought in the largest first night crowd in recent years. Hartke said it is hard to get a solid number for overall attendance as the morning 4-H programs bring in fairgoers who attend before money is taken, but he estimates at least 40,000 people made it through the gates and onto the fairgrounds for fair festivities.
The new Effingham County Fair Queen, Shayna Phillips, and Junior Miss Hali Kreke were crowned by 2018 Queen Serena Strullmyer and Junior Miss Annie Frost. The new royalty led many of the events such as harness racing, the demolition derby and tractor pulls.
The two also spent most of their week on the fairgrounds viewing 4-H exhibits, cheering on 4-H members in their shows and visiting with fairgoers from across the county.
Hartke described the fair and its events as organized with hardly any hitches in the week. He said good weather throughout the week allowed the fair board to host eight evenings that were "nearly ideal."
As for next year, Hartke said he is unsure how the fair board will top the demolition derby and the Josh Turner concert. However, the board already has some improvements in mind.
"We're going to work on a little bit better lighting for some of our production numbers and maybe some improved seating in the infield to replace some of the older bleechers that are showing some wear," Hartke said. "I've been on the board for 34 years, and it just seems like the dedicated board that I have keeps wanting it to get better and better."
Hartke said the 200 fair anniversary booklets authored by Kurt Becker sold out, but the board is printing more copies that will be available for purchase along with a book about the early fair history. He also encouraged the public to contact a board member or himself at 217-821-3126 to give input on the next act for the Friday concert and to also purchase the history books.
The 76th annual Effingham County Fair will take place August 1-8, 2020 at the Effingham County Fairgrounds in Altamont.
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.