2022 Logan County Fair

Our grand fair is a great county fair
Don't miss it. Don't even be late!

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[August 08, 2022]   The Logan County Fair officially kicks off on Tuesday, August 2nd with the ribbon cutting event at the west gate, the Kiddie Tractor Pull and the first of the livestock shows begin. A few other activities such as the cat show on Saturday; all veterans picture, music and the opening of four days of the best Downstate Illinois Harness Races begins on Sunday goes through Wednesday; and 4-H Projects are judged on Monday remaining on display.

But none of these days are when the fair actually began.

Much of the work to get the fair up and running starts weeks, even months earlier in order for all the exhibits, livestock shows, and special events to go off without a hitch.

When it comes right down to it, the fair began a year ago. That's right, a year.

And, next year's fair begins in a few weeks.

The Fair takes the Logan County Fair Board

The Logan County Fair Board will meet soon after the close of the 2022 fair and discuss what to do in the next year? Board members and others talk about what went right, what went wrong, what could have been done differently. The format for the next fair is set, then the hard work really begins.

The Fair takes office staff

About a month ahead of the fair opening, the Logan County Fair Office opens for business. According to Allie Bode the four ladies in the office - Bonnie Young, Emilie Young, Rachel Welker, and Bode, stay hoppin’ from the first day until days after the fair is over.

All the open fair entries are handled by the staff in the office. The staff takes the entry paper work and entry fees and records all the participants for each exhibit. The staff also works with the superintendents of each exhibit making sure those folks have what they need to effectively manage their show.

Office staff also sees to the judges for the various open shows and assures that grandstand events are scheduled and confirmed.

Then as the fair gets underway, the staff collects all the judging results from each exhibit, organizes that information and records it. Those records are shared with local media. Lincoln Daily News publishes all the results from all the shows.

During the fair, Bode says that the staff at the office work extra-long hours as they keep the doors open until after the closing of the grandstand event each night.

For the ladies at the fair office it takes a lot of brain power to get the fair going and keep it going throughout the week.

The Fair takes muscle

There is also a lot of brawn involved in getting ready for the fair. The livestock barns as well as the exhibit barns must be cleaned and set up for the shows, exhibits, and guests; not to mention for full grounds maintenance and upkeep as tens of thousands of people visit the grounds.

Often times, fair board member Mike Maske will be in the thick of these activities. Pre-fair work led by Maske and others ranges from setting up the gates and pens in the livestock barns, to cleaning the exhibit barns and moving display cases into place for the entries that will be placed in or on them during fair week. Daily work intensifies during the fair to defend the title, "Illinois' Best and Cleanest County Fair."

The Fair takes dedicated superintendents

Each judging event has at least one or two superintendents who keep everything running smoothly on judging day. They too have records to keep that they give to the fair office, ribbons to hand out, and judges to accommodate.

The Logan County Extension Office staff are equally busy. According to Carissa Davis there are 235 4-H members this year and most have multiple entries at the Logan County Fair. Davis said the extension office collects and gets the information 4-H entries recorded and forwarded to the various exhibit and show superintendents. They also collect results after the judging.

The 4-H superintendents play a big part in keeping the 4-H events running smoothly. The superintendents secure the judges for individual categories, organize the shows, record the ratings given to each entry and assist with selecting State Fair delegates.

The Fair takes the super skills of the Extension Office and 4-H supporters

One of the most beloved events of the fair is the annual 4-H Scrambles Night. The extension office staff plan that event working with participants, secure the animals and prizes. In addition, the night includes the presentation of scholarship awards, the local Hall of Fame Award, the parading of the previous year's calf scramble steers and plaque awards.

What many may not know about the scrambles night is that the application period for the youngsters opens in February of each year. Davis said that many of the youngsters are there on that first day to get their application in as there are a limited number of spaces available for each animal category and no one wants to be left out.

Davis and Amanda Gray are the primary contacts for the scramble with a lot of help also coming from office staffer Sherri Bishop. They assure that the applicants meet the requirements for participation.

And, when the world gets complicated, the ladies figure out how to pivot quickly so as to keep the show intact. For the 2022 season there can be no chickens at the Logan County Fair, not for judging and not for the scrambles. The chicken scramble is for the youngest of the competitors. Davis said that rather than disappoint the kids, there will be a new version that includes an egg relay contest. Each participant receives a special gift bag courtesy of the Logan County 4-H Foundation and its sponsors.

For the goat and calf scrambles the participants that catch an animal keep it and are required to show it at the next Logan County Fair. Those who catch a pig in the greased pig scramble also get to keep their animal but are not required to show it the next year.

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Davis said on the day of the scramble, which is Wednesday, August 3rd, she and Gray will meet with all the participants in the north end livestock show barn. The staff explains the rules of each scramble and prepare participants on what to expect. Afterward, the kids are lined up and paraded out to the race track in front of the grandstand.

The Logan County Extension staff secure the animals for the scramble. Davis said the goats and calves come from a variety of suppliers; and the pigs primarily come from local hog producer Dave Conrady. The livestock owners are reimbursed for their animals by the various sponsors of the 4-H Scramble Night.

And then there's special people

Within the 4-H portion of the fair and the open portion, there are many people who work hard to make their specific show the best it can be. The superintendents have a huge responsibility within those shows to assure that the judges are happy, the kids are happy, and the visitors to the event are happy.

While they all work very hard at this, there are some who go above and beyond.

For many years, Lincoln Daily News has enjoyed covering the Sheep Shows because they are well organized and they are just down-right-good-fun. The superintendents for the 4-H and Open Shows on Thursday are John Coers, Jim and Jared Coers.

In addition to the regular judging there are special activities started by John and Jared. John has been showing sheep for many years and he and his family travel all around the state showing in the open categories at various fairs. The Coers family also has shown through multiple generations in the 4-H shows, and this year have one 4-H member left who will be showing.

A few years back John and Jared decided they wanted to dress up the show barn a bit... and that is how it all began.

The first thing they decided to do was create a nice looking area for the photo opportunities for winners. Jared Coers handcrafted the wooden Logan County Fair sign as a gift for John about six years ago. The year gets changed out to keep it current. Parrs Greenhouse of Mason City provides the beautiful flowers and greenery. Irwindale Farms in the past have donated the corn stalks. John Coers noted that it is a collaborative working together to make the Logan County Sheep Shows special for all.

As a showman who has been to a lot of fairs, John wanted to find other ways to make it fun and entertaining for the participants and guests.

So a few years ago, the Coers’ began announcing the 'Grand Drives' in “a crazy way.” Current pop music blares, a disco ball was even incorporated the year Thunder by Image Dragons was played. The audience is revved up to cheer each participant into the arena with their winning sheep.

To cut loose even a little more, after all the serious work of competition, John and Jared introduced the costume contest three years ago. They started out with their own little skit where they introduced “Betty and Ethel,” which evolved into a costume event that includes any of the exhibitors regardless of age. The costumes have proven to be the highlight of the day. John said that there is not generally a specific theme to the event, but it is recommended that the exhibitor include his or her sheep in the entry, and extra points are awarded for using woolen items.

After all the fun and games it is time to eat. The superintendents host a luncheon with what else but lamb being the main entrée. The lamb brats are usually prepared by either Steve and Pam Schreiner or Nuthatch Hill BBQ. The food is donated by the Schreiners, and John and Annie Coers. Exhibitors bring a dish to pass in potluck fashion.

Generally there are around 75 to 100 people who are in attendance for the meal and it is a great “family get together” to end the day.

Again, there is a lot of work that goes into getting a show like the sheep show underway and successfully concluded at the end of the day. John Coers said there are around eight official volunteers who help with the show, but it is really a group effort that involves everyone there to make it good. In addition to the three superintendents, official volunteers include spouses Annie, Erin and Mindy who keep the books and classes straight, and Steve and Pam, who oversee the success of the meal.

The fair is a tremendous amount of work for every superintendent, every fair board member and every staff person from the Logan County Fair organization and from the University of Illinois Extension.

Without all these people, we would not have a fair, and without their devotion and best efforts it would not be as good as it is every year.

So, why? Why do people give so much of their time and their heart to something that comes along only one week a year and then is gone?

While John and Annie Coers were the ones who answered this question specifically, it stands to reason that the answer they gave is a reflection of what each volunteer or staff member feels.

“All this is done for the kids,” said the couple. “We are all about making memories and since we have “spiced” up the show, the kids remember.”

The Coers' also explained some of the other things they do to make it more about the kids and promoting the community feeling of the fair. “We are constantly asked in weeks before the fair what John was going to have them do to get the lil' gift that we provide to the 4-H sheep participants. It is usually an “info” hunt, like a scavenger hunt, only the kids have to go around the fairgrounds and find out who won visual arts, who is the queen, name a cattle or swine exhibitor, and so on. It helps them to get out and see other areas of the fair that they may not have taken an interest in before. We have given gifts like T shirts, thermal cups, Indian blankets, etc. We just want the kids to have fun and want to come to the fair or at least take an interest. I believe we have achieved that and look forward to it ourselves every year. To us, we feel it means more to them to be a part of something and to look forward to it from year to year.”

John concluded with a personal note, “We have raised sheep for over 40+ years, and dad raised them long before that. We have a vested interest because it is our passion. We have seen what our children have gained from it. Whether it be responsibility, talent, or friends from near and far, they have something to remember as well as what they have achieved or gained from raising and showing sheep. So Thursday of the Logan County Fair is where the action is. We encourage all to check it out!”

The above are all valued and important to what makes the Logan County Fair great. There are many paid and volunteers who work hard and with passion to help others have a great fair experience. We hope you will see the efforts put forth and find some pleasure attending our Logan County Fair too.

[Nila Smith]

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