The 77th Effingham County Fair started off with 60 runners in the 5K run called the “Barnyard Run." Then the rain set in and cut into the participation in the car show. My pick at the car show was a 100-year-old 1921 REO coupe. It had spoke wheels and looked fantastic. I am sure next year the car numbers will be up. We had to cancel the PPL Lucas Oil pull Saturday night because of the constant rain. The ranch sorting show had some cancellations but still managed to pay out almost $14,000 in prize winnings. Over 300 teams participated.
Sunday’s harness racing started with a race featuring seven entries. That was the largest number of entries in a single race for a long time. The grandstand had great crowds on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The Downstate Classic will be back next year. For the week, we had 50 races. Make plans to come out and enjoy harness racing next year.
The talent show had 10 entries with the winners advancing to the Springfield convention in January. The Jr. Miss competition had 21 contestants with Kinley Will selected our 2021 Jr. Miss. On Tuesday night, reigning queen Taylor Hartke gave a very impressive retirement speech. We had seven queen contestants with Kaylee Phillips picked to become the 2021 Effingham County Fair Queen.
Monday ITPA pull was well attended, but the crowd Wednesday night for the second PPL pull was beyond our expectations. That is when we decided we would furnish bus service from the high school to the fairgrounds on Thursday and Friday.
The Downstate Classic races were the largest single-day payout in the history of the fair. We had eight races that day.
The Rodeo and Demo Derby just about filled the new infield bleachers. Concert attendance and handling the large crowds on the track was quite the challenge.
I don’t know how we would have handled the huge crowds had we not had the new sets of bleachers.
I know that Saturday night had to be the largest crowd that ever watched the Demo Derby. The 4,000 seats we now have were almost all full. We featured around 64 cars. During one of the heats, a car was pushed completely out of the south end of the arena.
After the wet start on Saturday, the weather was near perfect with no rain and cool summertime temperatures.
I also want to mention the Community Showcase, Free Stage, Balloon Artist and all the 4-H shows that kept everyone busy all week.
I want to thank all the volunteers and everyone who helped in any way during the week. The board, officers and staff work all year to put on one of the finest fairs in the state. I want to give a special thanks to Board members Dale Laue, Rex Homann, Michelle Loy, Wendel Alwardt, Emilie Wall, Dennis Finfrock, Darrel Gressel, George Soltwedel, Jennifer Hecht, Fred Percival, Darren Feldkamp, Dean Wetherell, Jon Becker, Howard Winter and Maintenance director Dennis Vaughn. We all appreciate the efforts of Secretary Teri Schaefer and Treasurer Danielle Alwardt. They do an amazing job of keeping everyone informed and on focus.
I want to thank the business community of the greater Effingham County area. Your financial support of this fair is just phenomenal. I hope each of you feel your donations are part of our successful fair.
We all have special memories of the fair. My two special memories were these: the queen retirement speech of my grandaughter, Taylor Hartke. She relayed to us just how special this fair is to her and her family. She delivered it without notes and from the heart. I was awfully proud of her poise and delivery. Everyone was listening and could see how she loves agriculture. The second great memory was seeing and hearing another granddaughter, Sophia Hartke, playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” on her violin for the opening ceremony of the Wednesday tractor pull and the Demo Derby.
I believe the most impressive thing that happened was on Rodeo night. As the Rodeo announcer was playing a Lee Greenwood song, “God Bless The USA,” people spontaneously stood up and sang the song and ended it with a huge applause. What a great feeling that was to be part of. All I could think was “wow” what a crowd. Then on Friday, Neal McCoy was singing “How Great Thou Art” and again all the people stood up and joined in singing that great song.
Effingham County should be proud that we still make God and Country to be very important to all of us. I salute all of you for letting us know a county fair can still showcase what’s good about the good-old USA.
Thanks to all who attended the fair and please come back next year.
Effingham County Fair Board President