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Fair draws 18,000 to 19,000 people

By Chris Johnson

A carnival, grandstand shows, and varied exhibits drew an estimated 18,000 to 19,000 people to the 163rd Ogle County Fair last week.

“The fair went very well. Overall it was a good fair,” said fair board president Harlan Holm Monday. “We don’t have exact numbers yet but attendance was a little higher than last year.”

The only glitch was a power outage Thursday afternoon when equipment at the ComEd substation in Mt. Morris failed, taking down electricity not only at the fairgrounds, but also to the entire village of Mt. Morris, part of Oregon, and the rural area in between.

“We’re starting generators,” Holm said. “We’ll be fine.”

With the temperature hovering near the 90-degree mark, generators were already powering large fans to keep the animals cool in the livestock barns.

Power was restored by 5 p.m., just in time for food vendors to gear up for the suppertime crowd.

A fast-moving storm late Thursday evening cooled things down for the final three days of the fair.

Holm said the biggest crowd was Saturday under clear skies with low humidity and the mercury just under 80 degrees.

“It was a perfect day for going to the fair,” Holm said.

The big draws at the fair included the Big Hat Rodeo on Friday night and the demolition derby Saturday night.

Youngsters of all ages lined up all five days of the fair for the unlimited carnival rides that came with the $8 admission fee at the gate.

Opening night on Aug. 3 saw the crowning of the Maddie Kirchner, Forreston, as the 2016 Miss Ogle County Fair Queen.

Animal judging was in full swing Thursday morning.

The horse show begin bright and early and continued throughout the day.

First up were the riders in the green rider walk trot competition. This is for 4-H members new to showing horses in the arena.

Leaf River Soaring Eagles member Natalie Johnson was practicing her technique in the minutes leading up to the competition.

She was helped with her posture and told to have fun.

More experienced riders took to the saddle and practiced advanced techniques before the arena was available.

In a barn to the north the rabbits were taking center stage.

“These are nice and young,” said fair judge Harry Rungler, Dixon. “Be proud of them, but they are small. I go by the standards but I like the little ones.”

Rungler was making sure each 4-H member knew why he was making the decisions on which rabbit was the champion and which was the reserve champion.

While waiting to have her rabbits judged, Carefree 4-H member Sara Blume, age 15, was doing her best to keep the rabbits on the judging table.

“I try my best but they keep trying to jump away,” Blume said with a smile as she reached for one of her rabbits.

Just past the rabbit cages 12-year-old Isaac Charbonneau, Leaf River Busy Beavers 4-H, was feeding his three ducks.

“I need to make sure they are fed and have clean water,” he said. “Raising ducks is difficult but [they are] not the hardest animal to take care of.”

Charbonneau may be young but he is experienced.

“This is my fifth year showing at the fair,” he said. “One of my ducks tries to bite me so I do not think he likes being caged at the fair. At home they have space in the yard.”

The Illini State Pullers took center stage at the grandstands during an afternoon and an evening show.

David Palmer, 3-D Sound Dixon, took to the microphone and gave play-by-play commentary of the action.

“That is a propane tractor,” said Palmer about Adam Best’s Minneapolis Moline. “He is cooking with gas today.”

With every driver Palmer mentioned history about the tractors that were entered in the contest, other shows the driver participated in this season, and other facts about how tractor pulls worked.

Not a single person in the crowd could leave without knowing exactly how the rules of a tractor pull were held with Palmer on the microphone.

One of those drivers Thursday afternoon was Polo’s Bill Clothier.

His first run did not go as planned but he still had a grin on his face when talking about the passion he has for tractor pulls.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We all compete on the same track.”

Clothier just went to the pits and started taking weights off his tractor to prepare for the next weight class.

In tractor pulls their are strict weight limits that participants need to adhere to.

“Most guys run the same tractor,” he said. “It is just the weight that changes between classes.”

The weights are heavy and some are 103 pounds each and need to be lifted to shoulder height to install.

“Lifting all these weights keeps you young,” Clothier joked.

Wood carver Dave Ferrell drew a crowd of spectators Friday night.

He was demonstrating how to carve a log using chainsaws.

“Carving is fun and each year I donate art to the Saturday auction with the proceeds going to the fair,” said Farrell.

The Ogle County Fair continued through Sunday afternoon.

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