THE MERCER COUNTY FAIR
Submitted by Lois Retherford
The Mercer County Fair has been important to the residents of Mercer County since its first fair in 1853. Today, 155 years later, the fair is still brings the county together each July. We are a small county, with only 17,000 residents, yet over 11,000 visit our fairgrounds each summer. Our exhibitions, from livestock, to hobbies, antiques, photography, to culinary arts, flowers and vegetables, allow a large number of our people to enter the competitions. Last year, 2007, 800 exhibitors entered more than 3040 entries.
The volunteers serving as directors of the Mercer County Agricultural Society devote hours to the fair and work hard to improve the fairgrounds. Our fairgrounds are park-like, well-maintained, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as historically important. They were listed because of their importance to the social and agricultural development of western Illinois .
Our old-fashioned all-American county fair attracts the youth of the county too. The 4-H exhibition has been a part of our fair for over 50 years. Youth enter the 4-H exhibitions, junior competitions and open shows. Young people also enter the queen pageants, the talent shows and the various baby contests. The Mercer County Fair is still important to Mercer County as it was 155 years ago!
For 16 years the Mercer County Fair was held in Millersburg , Ill. , on the southwest corner of the village. Beginning with the first Fair in 1853, they were held in October, harvest time. Buldings were erected on the three acre site and an additional two acres were purchased later. No Fair was held in 1862 because of the Civil War.
Mrs. Eliza Greer attended one of the Millersburg Fairs and saw ice cream for the first time. She wondered why people were eating mash potatoes in that way.
In 1869 the Mercer County Fair moved to Aledo. Aledo had become the county seat and the newly constructed railroad passed through the town bypassing Millersburg. Twenty-seven acres were purchased on the southwest corner of town for $100 an acre.
All the original buildings built on the new Fairgrounds have been destroyed. The small octagon Pumpkin House was erected in 1880 at a cost of $169.50. The much larger Floral Hall was built two years later at a cost of $2,020. Two brick buildings, the secretary's office and the ticket booth, were built in 1914 and 1919. The Merchants Building was erected in 34 days in 1926.
Because of financial difficulties, no Fair was held in 1938.The Fairgrounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Sesquicentennial Fair was held in 2003.
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