SANDWICH – For more than 40 years, sisters Dianne Leifheit of DeKalb and Nancy Didier of Sycamore have attended the Sandwich fair together.
“When we were younger, we did 4-H, and now we come once a year, usually together,” Didier said. “Our family all comes, usually on their own. It’s something we’ve done every year, and we love coming. We love seeing the horticulture, the animals and eating all of the great food.”
The 129th annual Sandwich Fair opened Wednesday and will run through Sunday at the Sandwich Fairgrounds, 1401 Suydam Road. On average, between 190,000 to 240,000 people attend the fair each year. This year’s fair features more than 300 vendors.
Sandwich Fair Vice President and General Livestock Superintendent Ken Tyrrell said that although there has been no funding from the state because of Illinois’ budget impasse, exhibition and season ticket sales have been about average.
“Every year, the fair changes, and we always have so much to see here,” Tyrrell said. “As the Northern Zone Director of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, I travel and visit a lot of different fairs around Illinois. We have the largest and best-attended fair in the state.”
Upcoming entertainment at the fair will include a performance by country music artist Frankie Ballard at 8 tonight, NTPA sanctioned tractor pulls at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and demolition derbies at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Two years ago, the wooden grandstand built in 1913 was removed. Permanent bleachers were added to the grandstand area and attendees can sit on portable bleachers for infield seating.
Last year, a private tent for mothers with babies was added to the fair. Tyrrell said that the fair had so much positive feedback about the tent last year, a second tent for mothers wanting to nurse and change their babies’ diapers has been added.
Another change made this year was the addition of the Hospitality Pavilion, sponsored in part by Heartland Bank. The pavilion provides a permanent shaded area for guests.
Tyrrell said that even though the fair changes a little every year, it still somehow remains the same.
“I think what brings people back every year is friendship, the people you meet,” he said. “Generations of people come to the fair, three or four generations of people coming back year after year. It brings people together. It’s a wonderful time.”
For information about the Sandwich Fair, visit www.sandwichfair.com.