DeKALB – Live music, the smell of barbecue and the bustling of thousands of people means the event Ken Tyrell has spent all year preparing for is finally here.
The Sandwich Fair kicks off at 8 a.m. today to begin its five-day stretch of food, contests, exhibits and live entertainment.
Fair directors are prepared to hand out more than $20,000 in cash rewards for this year’s contest entries, said Tyrell, the fair’s vice president and general livestock superintendent.
“It’ll be full. They have everything from birds to calves to miniature horses sometimes. They always have a great selection of animals,” he said. “We have probably in the neighborhood of 5,000 livestock entries at the fair this year and 25,000 total entries from one end of the fair to the other.”
With more than 300 vendors, a carnival and an average 160,000 people in attendance, the fair is not only a tradition for the community, but an attraction that draws people from all over, Sandwich Fair Association secretary Nancy Rex said.
“Many folks that were familiar with the fair as they were growing up in the Sandwich area have moved to different parts in the United States and they kind of take the opportunity to come back to the Sandwich Fair to have a reunion with family and friends, and also just to come back and see what the area is like since they’ve been gone,” she said.
New to the fair this year is a mother/child tent, which is equipped with seven changing tables and will provide privacy to parents with nursing children, Tyrell said.
While the fair’s grandstand awaits construction, temporary bleachers have been placed on both sides of the stand’s reserved seating section, which has remained intact, Rex said.
“Hopefully by next year, we will have a more permanent building,” she said.
Other fair staples, however, such as Fay’s Pork Chop Bar-B-Que, have been preparing for the event for weeks, and are ready to serve a long line of hungry fairgoers looking to get their hands on the vendor’s barbecued pork chops. The business has been serving meals at the fair for 54 years, and cooks up a smell some have come to associate with the fair itself, owner Marcia Dempsey said.
“Lots of happy people go through. Some people think that smoke should be bottled,” she said.
The performance by this year’s headlining musical artist, Brett Eldredge has been pushed back one hour and will take place at 8 p.m. Friday rather than 7 p.m. on the grandstand main stage.
While the live performance is sure to draw a crowd Friday, a rich history and a range of contests and exhibits is what sets Sandwich’s fair apart from other regions’, Rex said.
“First of all, it’s been going since 1888, so it is a tradition for a lot of people,” she said. “It’s five days of fun. People are looking for fun entertaining things to do with family or friends. It’s affordable.”
Tickets to enter the fair cost $9 for adults and $5 for children between 6 and 12 years old. Children younger than 5 enter for free.
The fair serves as a window for people outside DeKalb County to take a look at what the area is about, Tyrell said.
“Most people are three to five generations removed from the farm these days, and it’s a great opportunity to see people like me who [work on a farm],” he said.
If you go
What: Sandwich Fair
When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Sandwich Fairgrounds, 15738 Pratt Road, Sandwich