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Sandwich Fair keeps agricultural tradition alive

SANDWICH – Michele Farley spent her 50th wedding anniversary Saturday where she has spent nearly every anniversary: at the Sandwich Fair.

She and her husband, Walter, worked at the fair’s “bank,” where they helped supply people selling tickets with money, she said. The couple had dinner at Fay’s Pork Chop Bar-B-Que of Waterman, which has become anniversary tradition, and ate cake.

“We’re not big fancy dinner and wine type of people,” Michele said. “We’re homebodies.”

Fay’s Pork Chop Bar-B-Que was one of more than 450 vendors at the Sandwich Fair, said John Hallaron, superintendent of concessions and displays. Attendance at the fair, which was based on estimates, was as follows: 17,716 people on Wednesday, 25,701 on Thursday and 32,748 on Friday.

However, the numbers aren’t completely accurate because there are many season ticket holders with tickets good for five days, and event organizers can’t count whether the ticket holders attend the fair for all five days or select days, said Nancy Rex, Sandwich Fair secretary and member of the board of directors.

Overall, attendance was about average this year, Rex said.

There were also about 6,000 exhibitors at the fair, said Debbie Merkel, administrative assistant data manager, and a total of 26,900 items were on display for viewing or showing.

Naperville resident Jamie Blowers was at the fair looking at some of those items on display. An upstate New York native, he went to the fair with his wife and daughter. Blowers’ daughter won first place and became junior grand champion in a quilting competition, he said.

Blowers attends the Sandwich Fair because it reminds him of an agricultural fair he used to attend in New York.

“It’s a connection back to an aspect of our society or culture that’s easy to look over and forget about when I’m living my fast-paced life in Naperville,” he said. “I don’t usually interact with farmers, but here, I get to see that.

“It’s easy to lose sight of that reality.”

Sandwich native Becky Labolle was fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the Sandwich Fair. She was at the fair watching her children and husband play the game “Pat’s Skeeball,” which Labolle has done every year since she was little.

“Where else can you play a game for only a quarter?” she said.

The family has a tradition of visiting the area on the Monday before the fair kicks off to see officials set up, she said.

Even when Labolle moved out of town to go to school, she came back home every year for the Sandwich Fair.

“I love the mix of people that come,” she said. “This is the symbol of my hometown.”

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