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August 7, 2014

The last hurrah? St. Clair County Fair packs the week with events, exhibits

Fans of the St. Clair County Fair may want to make a special effort to show up this weekend.

"This probably will be the last year (for the fair)," said board President Kay Weber, of Belleville. "It has not definitely been decided, but it looks that way."

Weber pointed to dramatic cuts in funding from the State of Illinois.

"Many of the county fairs have closed," she said. "You can't do something if you don't have the money."

The fair kicked off Wednesday and will continue through Sunday at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville.

Activities include carnival rides, arena events, livestock judging, a pedal tractor pull, music, crafts and other exhibits.

"It's been a good growing year," Weber said. "So people have brought in some beautiful flowers, plants, vegetables and fruit. We also have cakes, cookies and canning."

Luehr's Ideal Rides has set up more than 20 carnival rides, games and food stands.

"We'll have everything from kiddie rides for young children to intermediate rides for Mom, Dad and the whole family to teenage rides for the thrill-seekers, such as Pharaoh's Fury, The Storm and The Himalaya," said owner Andy Schoendienst, of Fairview Heights.

Arena events include Motorcycle Flat Track Racing tonight, Don Klein 100 Stock Car Races Friday, a Demolition Derby Saturday and The Arnie Knepper Memorial POWRi Midgets and Outlaw Micros Sunday.

The Rooster Crowing Contest will take place this evening. Organizer Estelle Wernle has eight contestants.

"They line up their cages on a picnic table, and the judges count how many times they crow in a half hour," she said.

The reigning champion was a small banty rooster that crowed 113 times three years ago.

"(Owners) can't touch the roosters during the competition, but they can do anything else to try to make them crow," Wernle said.

Other fair entertainment will be provided by Phil'z Harmonik Suzuki Strings tonight, Becky Kern's Dance Studio Friday and the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America Hot Brass Saturday.

"Becky Kern will present a program celebrating Belleville's bicentennial," Weber said.

The St. Clair County Fair was founded in 1854 to promote agriculture and the "household arts." In the early days, railroads added extra trains to transport huge crowds from surrounding towns.

"It became such a significant event that businesses closed and districts called off school so families could attend together," according to a News-Democrat story in 2004, when the fair celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Financial losses in the 1920s caused the fair to disappear for more than a decade. It was revived in 1939 by a new board headed by a local Chevy dealer.

Officials constructed the 120-by-240-foot Exposition Hall in 1964.

"Over the years, hundreds of thousands have been treated to everything from the area's finest animals and crops to Model Ts racing to Joan Jett rocking the night away," the anniversary story said.

The current decision on whether to discontinue the fair isn't being taken lightly by Weber and other board members.

"We've been discussing it for a number of years," she said.

At a glance

What: St. Clair County Fair

Where: Belle-Clair Fairgrounds, 200 S. Belt West, Belleville

When: 6 to 10 p.m. today and Friday, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

Parking: $4 per car

Arena events: $12 on Thursday and Saturday, $15 on Friday and Sunday (free for 12 and under)

Information: Call 618-235-0666 or visit

St. Clair County Fair schedule


8 a.m. -- Sheep, goat and swine judging

6 to 10 p.m. (or later) -- Carnival rides open ("Pay One Price Night" with all-you-can-ride tickets for $22; individual tickets also available)

6 to 10 p.m. -- Expo Hall exhibits open

6 p.m. -- Rooster Crowing Contest

6:30 p.m. -- Motorcycle Flat Track Racing in the arena

7 p.m. -- Pedal Tractor Pull

7 p.m. -- Phil'z Harmonik Suzuki Strings


8:30 a.m. -- Beef cattle judging

1 p.m. -- Dairy cattle judging

6 to 10 p.m. (or later) -- Carnival rides open

6 to 10 p.m. -- Expo Hall exhibits open

6:30 p.m. -- Don Klein 100 Stock Car Races in the arena

7 p.m. -- Becky Kern's "Belleville Bicentennial German Heritage Night"


2 to 10 p.m. (or later) -- Carnival rides open

2 to 10 p.m. -- Expo Hall exhibits open

3 to 4 p.m. -- R.J. Krause All-Stars Sports Club

6:30 p.m. -- Demolition Derby in the arena

7 p.m. -- U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America Hot Brass


1 to 6 p.m. -- Carnival rides open ("Family Bargain Day" with all rides costing one ticket)

6:30 p.m. -- National POWRi Midgets (Arnie Knepper Memorial) and Outlaw Micros in the arena

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