Youngsters take charge during the Tri County Fair's Hog Show, which was held on Saturday afternoon. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)
MENDOTA – Most of new activities planned for this year’s Tri County Fair were well received and entries were up somewhat for the traditional Best of Show competitions. Despite the heat, humidity and a few downpours interspersed throughout the Labor Day weekend, fair board secretary Carol Ramer said it was an enjoyable four days.
“We tried some different things this year and they worked really well. I’m thrilled,” Ramer commented on Tuesday.
Because of the additional entries in the north end this year, a second building was opened to accommodate all the displays. Ramer said she was particularly impressed with the display of this year’s floral entries, which was set up by Tammy Gibson. “It was really something to see - different than what you usually see at the fair,” Ramer noted. “She had lamps by the flowers and a rocking chair at one end. It was more like something you would see at a flower show.”
The north end also welcomed some new exhibitors who offered items such as housewares, pots and pans, and jewelry.
Saturday afternoon’s Taco Cook Off was the first of the new activities scheduled at the fair. Ramer said the winner of the competition, Sandro Guzman, was quickly renamed “Taco Guzman” for his delicious tacos. “Both of the competitors were very good but his presentation was above and beyond,” Ramer said. “Once people caught on to how the competition worked, they really got into it - it was a riot.”
The second new event, the Barnyard Bolt 5K Fun Walk/Run, took place Sunday morning. A slate of 18 participants, some dressed up as pigs, cows, and various other friendly animals, took part. Despite the heat and humidity, Joe Burnac of LaSalle breezed through the course with a time of 19.08 taking overall first place. Ramer said the event was a lot of fun and the winners in each class were awarded Best of Show rosettes for their effort.
With the day becoming progressively hotter, Sunday afternoon’s BBQ Cook Off had to be scrapped. “It was so hot and there were so few people around in the afternoon that we couldn’t really do it,” Ramer explained.
Looking ahead, Ramer said they will “most definitely” do the Cook Off competitions again next year. “We’re also thinking about doing other types of food competitions - corn dogs, lemonade, etc.,” she added. “And we’re looking for suggestions if people have other ideas.”
Although three of the four events scheduled for the grandstand went on as planned, uncertain weather caused the cancellation of the Megacross races that were scheduled for Saturday night. Ramer explained that after a heavy rain Saturday morning, Megacross made the decision to cancel the event. “It takes so long to get the track ready and they have so many out-of-state drivers, that they didn’t want to take the chance of having them come all that way,” she said.
The other three grandstand events, Friday night’s Truck and Tractor Pull, the stock car races Sunday night and Monday’s Demo Derby, all drew good crowds. Ramer said this was the first time in 50 years that stock car races were held at the Tri County Fair. The Sunday evening event featured 16 cars and although it was very hot and humid, there was no rain that night. “We had great racing - a couple of spin-outs and a rollover - people really enjoyed it,” she said.
On Monday, despite an estimated 1.5 inches of rain that afternoon, the Demo Derby went on as planned with over 100 cars taking part. Ramer said there were so many cars that they put them in two groups and doubled the prize money. In addition, the two busses that made it to the track for the Schoolbus Derby were a big hit. “We had almost five hours of demo derby, there were so many cars,” she said. “But they’re all treated like family here - that’s what we strive for. We want people to come and enjoy themselves.”
Ramer admitted that some people tell her there is nothing to see at the fair anymore and complain that the carnival is small. “I try to get people to understand that it would have cost $35,000 more for the carnival we had last year,” she emphasized. “I had to cut $40,000 out of our budget this year. No, we didn’t have the wood carver, the medicine show, or the magician but they get $500 per performance and they give two or three shows a day. We just couldn’t afford to pay for them.”
Ramer also explained that it is hard to offer a variety of activities when people typically don’t come to the fair during the day any more. She said they have better crowds in the evening and the weather is better later in the day also. “I know it’s not the fair it used to be,” she said. “We’re trying to provide a place to bring the family where you can have a good time. There’s no way we could bring in a big music act and then not know if the weather was going to cooperate. This fair is laid back, more reminiscent of an old country fair. Half the fun is running into people you know and having a chance to visit with them, not the entertainment.”