In the early 1850's the pioneer families of Champaign County set aside a day each summer to bring their best livestock, grain samples and other farm products to show and compare with their neighbors. As the appointed day drew closer an air of anxiety and excitement swept over the entire county. When the day finally arrived everyone was up before dawn, busily finishing preparations. Each family packed a gigantic picnic basket and with all their exhibits stowed in the wagon or tied on behind, they set out for Urbana and the big grove that was located east of where the Court House is today.
The event grew in popularity and was soon attended by families traveling from 20 to 30 miles distance. In order to entertain the youngsters as well as the older folks, games and contests were held with prizes for the winners.
As the affair grew it became clear that someone had to organize and plan the events. At that time, just as now, the folks who planned the celebration were volunteers, citizens with a civic pride that spurred them on to better the quality of life in our community. The first truly organized fair was held in 1852.
Through the years and many reorganizations the Champaign County Fair has become "one of the best in the country" according to former Director of Agriculture for the State of Illinois. This year there will be approximately 1500 entry classes and over $100,000 offered in prizes.
Exhibitors may enter livestock, agriculture products, arts, textiles, culinary items, horticulture, floriculture, needlework and crafts. In addition there is a queen contest prior to the fair and during fair week there is a religious music show, country music show, talent show, BIG give-away, demolition derbies, monster trucks, harness racing, motorcycle racing, car show, rodeo, tractor pull and semi truck pull.
Tinsley's Amusements Inc. will be on the Midway.
At today's fair the picnic basket is seldom seen. Fair goers look forward to food prepared by local organizations and by vendors who travel from fair to fair.
The fair is a fun place to be, but it fills a serious educational function providing an opportunity to learn what is the best in all classes. The judges are all experienced and top quality.
Clearly the fair is a major undertaking that is made possible by many volunteers -- superintendents, department chairpersons and others -- who donate their special talents year after year.