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Tri-County Fair holds its own despite poor economy

Posted: Wednesday, Sep 3rd, 2008

Redwood, #5 on the left, ridden by Orval Bronkhorst of Brandon, Wis., gallops for position against Hollys Kat Kan Do, #7, right, during the second race of the afternoon program of harness racing Friday at the Tri-County Fair in Mendota. Redwood went three-wide down to the wire to take first place in the mile-long trot which was sponsored by Illinois State Representative Frank Mautino. (Reporter photo by Jim Dresbach)

Near-perfect weather and big-draw, popular grandstand events were the heroes of the 2008 Mendota Tri-County Fair as sunny skies and pleasant temperatures greeted Labor Day weekend crowds from Aug. 28 through Sept. 1.

The grandstand was constantly filled with healthy crowds for two evenings of demolition derby heats, Saturday night professional bull riding and a Friday afternoon session of harness racing.

But while the bulls bucked and compact cars crashed at the south-end grandstand, some drink and food sellers were less than enthusiastic about the Labor Day weekend crowds. Many vendors assessed business at the five-day fair as “slow” to “average”, but fair officials noted that the event held its own against a sagging economy that has slowed travel and curbed out-on-the-town family nights.

“During our grandstand shows…Monday night [the demolition derby] was jam-packed, and we had a great turnout for the rodeo [Saturday night],” fair president Matt Sawin said Tuesday morning. “Friday night, we probably had the biggest Friday night grandstand attendance that we’d had [for the demolition derby]. The fair was very successful this year.”

Vendors, who ranged from Iowa’s Doyle’s Carving Niche - who constantly entertained the crowd with wood carvings ranging from Chicago Cubbie bears to American eagles to the Lemon Shake-up seller to the Mendota Lions and Optimist Clubs, saw traffic increase slightly after a Thursday night which was filled with clouds and a slight mist, but fair president Sawin was very pleased with the grandstand, exhibition hall and exhibition hall crowds.

“We won’t have daily attendance numbers since we have free admission,” said Sawin. “We had great crowds at the grandstand, and I know people enjoy the shows we bring in. Our shows and exhibits went off great.”

Despite a bit of sub par weather, the fair received a big kickoff Thursday night with the Kick Cancer Krewe “Ladies” Pageant. A 10- person judge pool, which included Illinois State Representative Frank Mautino, Mendota Mayor David Boelk and LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton, picked the group entry of Ryan Furar, Brad Bradford and Mike Brown from among eight contestants as the winners of the Thursday night pageant.

The big benefactor of the pageant was Kick Cancer Krewe, which raised over $4,500 with the help of the fundraising event.

The Fourth Annual Tri-County Fair Hot Dog Eating Contest was held on Saturday afternoon in the north end floral hall. Winners in the junior category for youth to age 13 were Melissa Wohrley (9) first place, Katherine Wohrley (7) second place and Kaya Morris (6) third place. In the teen category, ages 15-18, winners were McKennon Biers (16) first, Kevin Wujek (15) second place and Nick Ganz (17) third place. In the adult category winners were Brett Merritt first place, Mitch Landgraf second place and David Turner third place.

For north end Best of Show winners, go to page 14 of this week’s Mendota Reporter, and for the demolition derby results, see Sports on page 7.

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