Sandwich Fair historian Joan Hardekopf was ready with a name when I asked for a longtime fair supporter I could interview. Joan is busy arranging displays in the new fair museum, which is in its second year.
The person she suggested is Juanita Anderson, who has been a part of the fair since she was 4 years old. That was the year her aunt asked her to help butter bread in the kitchen at the Federated Church’s food concession. Now 93, Juanita has been volunteering in various capacities at the fair for 89 years, except when she was 10 and was too ill to attend, Juanita said.
As a child, she lived down Center Street, just three blocks from the fairgrounds and remembers watching the big dray horses pulling farm equipment from the Sandwich Manufacturing Company past her house to the fair each year.
During high school and later she went to Saturday night dances in the fairgrounds dance hall during the days of ballroom dancing and big bands.
Juanita was married in 1937 and a few years later bought a house “kitty-corner” from her childhood home where she still lives. Incidentally that house originally was on her grandfather George Bark’s farm five miles north of town, but had been moved to Center Street with steam engines dragging it there on railroad ties.
Bark had been an original stockholder in the fair, and she laments the fact that later her father had to sell the family’s one share to a local banker during the Great Depression and she has never been able to buy it back. But she knows which descendant of that banker holds the stock and has hopes of still recovering it someday.
Her favorite job over the years was working with small antiques in one of the exhibition halls. She said the head judge, a Somonauk antique dealer named Shaw, let her help with the judging, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
In recent years, she’s taken on a new tasks, such as helping out at the Fox Valley Older Adult Services, where she made pork sandwiches that were being sold during the fair, and most recently at the Older Adults craft shop just east of the fair’s big windmill, where she said they have some fine handmade dish towels and dishrags for sale.
I should mention Juanita also volunteers two days a week year-round at the senior center in Sandwich preparing meals.
I plan to be there Wednesday and Thursday to see Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson emcee the noon show on the Ag Land stage. A new attraction, live duck races, also sounds intriguing.
My wife Kay and I always enjoy the handiwork and baked goods in the Home Arts Building as well as the hobbies and collectables hall and, last but not least, the Horticulture area where John Wagner presides. I’ve seen a lot of fairs in this country and would rate the Sandwich Fair as the best.
• Barry Schrader was editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969-1972. He and his wife, Kay, are retired and live in DeKalb. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115.