This summer will be remembered for the 75th Annual Effingham County Fair to be held in Altamont, the longest running fair in Effingham County.
The Effingham Daily News begins its annual Farm Fair special sections on Friday with a look back over that 75-year history. (Section D.) Watch for weekly installments of Farm Fair on Fridays in July as the newspaper explores the many ways agriculture – and the fair – are a central part of our community. The fair results section published Aug. 9.
According to Effingham County Fair Historian and Racing Announcer Kurt Becker, there were several fairs in Effingham County before the Effingham County Fair. The first fair on record was put on by the Effingham Agricultural Society in Ewington between 1856-1862 followed by a fair hosted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Society between 1868 and 1887 in Edgewood.
In 1872, Effingham County Agricultural, Horticulture and Mechanical society started a fair in Effingham and changed their name the next year to Effingham County Agricultural Board holding an annual fair through 1875. Another fair started up in Effingham in 1880 by the Effingham County Agricultural Society that lasting only four years.
Mason held a fair called the Watson Reunion started in 1885 and the closing date was not known. A county fair held in Watson called the Watson Fair was held between 1887 and 1904. The Altamont Agricultural Fair was held between 1906 and 1917 in Altamont with the governing body thought to be formed as early as 1904.
After several years of not having a fair, the Effingham County Fair Association was established in 1944 to begin a new fair on the same fairgrounds of the former Altamont Agricultural Fair held in Altamont. The fair established in 1944 by the Effingham County Fair Association is the fair in Effingham County we are celebrating today.
Eight pages in Friday's EDN could not begin to retrace or relive the many memories created by the Effingham County Fair over the years. From the horse racing that was continued on a track created by the Altamont Agricultural Fair, a queen pageant beginning in 1958 held through 1971 and after a break was rekindled in 1978 continuing today, a Junior Miss Effingham County queen pageant beginning in 2002 to the restoration of the Society Horse Barn in 2015, a structure built in 1906 left over from the Altamont Agricultural Fair held between 1906 and 1917.
A history book was compiled to preserve Effingham County fair history from 1868-1954 as a handy resource called “Fair History: Effingham County, Illinois, 1868-1954” compiled by the Effingham County Genealogical and Historical Society.
A new book with Effingham County Fair history will be released by the Effingham County Fair Association in celebration of the 75th Annual Effingham County Fair. The book will feature 15 chapters of fair history, exploring events including carnivals, parades, demolition derbies, horse races, 4-H, queen pageants, talent shows, country-western entertainers along with the history of the truck and tractor pulls.
Becker was one of two editors who helped compiled the book, “Effingham County Fair, 75 Years of History,” a title chosen by Effingham County Fair Board President Phil Hartke and Board Director Jennifer Hecht.
“My goal in writing the book was to tell the history of the fair via narrative instead of a bland, dry recitation of facts,” Becker said. “People go to the fair to have fun, so I wanted this book to be a fast-moving, entertaining read as told by those who have participated in the fair and its various events.”
Becker said the first part of the book tells the history of the fair event by event compiled and edited by himself and Scott Beal while the latter section features personal narratives and reflections compiled and edited by Phil Hartke and Jennifer Hecht.
“This fair has been the product of a lot of individuals coming together for 75 years to help make it happen,” Becker said. “This is why I wanted to tell the story of the fair, not by focusing on particular personalities but by gaining insight from as many individuals as possible.”
Becker said the target date for the release of the book to the public is July 17.
Charles Mills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.