Henry County Fair: More Than Just Funnel Cake and Tractor Pulls - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Henry County Fair: More Than Just Funnel Cake and Tractor Pulls

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County fairs are starting up for the season with the Henry County Fair in Cambridge, IL is underway tonight.

But it's not just about lemonade shake-ups and riding the tilt-a-whirl... one young man said showing hogs at the fair has taught him about respect for animals and others.

"These are my pigs," said 11 year old Ryan Parchert from Illinois City, touring around the pens of his seven hogs.

He said taking care of animals is his passion.

"Feed them and walk them, make sure they get what they need to live," said Ryan.

He's been doing it since he was four years old.

"Fairs aren't just all about animals," said Ryan. "It's stuff about fun, respecting animals, respecting other people's opinions, respecting what the judge says."

And Ryan's key to winning first place?

"You need to have the perfect amount of muscle and the perfect amount of softness in their stomach and try to keep their back-ends in tact," he said.

Hog showing advice from a kid who said he wants to raise animals for the rest of his life.

"Make sure you feed them right, make sure you have good showmanship, just make sure you don't mess up," said Ryan.

He said county fairs have taught him all about responsibility, hard work and having fun...

"You get to see some of your friends sometimes and you get to do a lot of things like eat elephant ears and show pigs and watch shows and it's just really fun," said Ryan.

But money is tight for county fairs across Illinois. Organizers said they can't rely on state funding anymore.

"Now we're kind of getting on track where we have a budget and doing things a lot better and running things really good," said director of the Henry County Fair Board Jake Young.

Four years ago, Henry County Fair organizers said they were over $100,000 in debt. They said funding from the state has been dwindling for almost a decade.

"All of a sudden fairs had to make an adjustment for that reduced funding from the state," said treasurer of County Fair Board Sharon Wexell. "Some fairs have struggled with that, the Henry County Fair was struggling with that."

Now they've reduced that debt to less than $30,000. They said it's because they started running their fair like a business and asked the community what they wanted.

"You have to decide, what are we going to do for them," said Young. "We have to base our fair around them and try some new things."

New things like Friday concert night. This year, Eric Paslay will be coming to the Henry County Grand Stand.

Now any money coming from the state is like a bonus.

"Be self sufficient and not even have to worry about that money playing a factor into the budget," said Young.

Wexell said it takes about $300,000 to put on the fair and if they're lucky they'll get about $30,000 from the state

But

t year after year, they said attendance keeps rising.

"I don't know if all the counties have had the same luck, but sometimes it's just a matter of changing," said Wexell. "What is that people want? What do they want to see and having something to offer them."

She said the fair helps boost the local economy and is apart of tradition. This is the 155th year for Henry County, one of the oldest fairs in the state.

"There's nothing like a county fair to pull people together, to pull those relationships together, to teach the youth about agriculture and horticulture and showing and meeting new friends and enjoying themselves," said Wexell.

 

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