Check out a county fair this summer!
County fair season is underway downstate and of course this means carnival rides, events like stock car racing and fried foods that weren’t meant to be fried such as Snickers Bars. The 160th Knox County Fair is now underway this week and it is a perfect example. But even though the county fair description that I have conjured up is what comes to most people’s minds, a county fair can be more than a place to buy a fried Snickers Bar and ride the Tilt–o-Whirl. There is also serious competition going on.
For example, the 2013 Knox County Fair kicked off with judging in several buildings, including the Agricultural Products building. My wife Julie and I are the superintendents of this building during the run of the fair. Although the number of entries was down in Agricultural Products building, the quality seemed better this year than in years past. There were plenty of large tomatoes, onions, cabbages and peppers. There were also a lot of entries in both the Hay – Alfalfa and the Hay – Mixed categories that gave the building a really pleasant aroma! The entries presented represent both locally produced food and an educational opportunity for those willing to take advantage of it.
With those unfamiliar, any area resident can enter produce, hay or grain that they grow into competition at the Knox County Fair. The produce entered has to conform to the standards set forth in the fair book. The entries are judged on these standards as well as quality and appearance. There are many categories i.e. Tomatoes – Heirloom, Peppers – Hot etc.. There is a first, second, and third, prize in each category with a premium paid for each. There are also Best of Show awards selected from the first place winners. This is given with a special premium paid.
A Junior Gardener area where kids can enter produce that they have grown is part of the fair. There are also first, second and third place prizes with premiums paid. There is also a Best of Show award as well as a People’s Choice award presented to the Junior Gardeners. The Best of Show premium is $25.00 this year and was donated by Blue Ribbon Farms of Knoxville, Illinois. Anybody who comes to view the produce at the Agricultural Products building can vote for the People’s Choice in the Junior Gardeners area. There is also a $25.00 premium paid for this category. This was donated by the Local Growers Network of Dahinda, Illinois.
An added bonus this year is that there is a free seed packet waiting for all who visit the Agricultural Products building during the fair courtesy of Burpee Seeds. There is also a raffle for an heirloom seed collection worth $27.50 donated by High Mowing Seed Company. The drawing will be held at the end of the fair on Saturday.
There are of course several other buildings where competition is under way for culinary, floriculture, textiles and fine arts. This is on top of the judging going on all week with livestock. An increase in interest in some of the activities going on at the fair outside of the carnival, stock car race or the band playing the beer tent would be very welcome! These are fun activities on their own, but there is much more to see at the fair, so check one out this summer!