Big Plans Upcoming for 2019 Effingham County Fair

Before drawing school names for the Fair’s two $500 scholarships, 2018 Effingham County Fair Queen Serena Strullmyer speaks to the Fair Board about her experiences as queen and about her love for the Fair. Fair Board president Phil Hartke looks on.

The Effingham County Fair held its annual meeting at the Carriage House Event Center in Altamont todiscuss a number of plans and improvements

in the works for the 75th annual Effingham County Fair in the summer of 2019.

2018 Effingham County Fair Queen Serena Strullmyer was given the honors of drawing names from the fair board’s list of schools entered in the annual scholarship drawing. Beecher City and Altamont school districts were chosen; these schools were notified and will offer applications for the $500 fair board scholarship among their student bodies in 2019. Winning students will be chosen based on need, merit, and an essay covering the importance of agriculture in Effingham  county. Preference will be given to students pursuing an agricultural education.

The list of eligible schools comes from winners of $100 prize drawings held during Grandstand events at the fair. Each winner may submit the name of one area school for entry into the scholarship drawing. Multiple winners may nominate the same school for a higher chance of winning—for instance, winner school Altamont had seven nominations into the scholarship pool.

The fair board also discussed a number of possible events, changes, and updates for the 2019 festivities. Notably, Danielle Alwardt presented a design for a commemorative license plate usable for a portion of the summer until the end of the fair. License plates with the fair logo and a 75th anniversary statement will be produced in a run of 100, available at a first come, first serve basis with preference given to fair board members. Members of the public who wish to purchase a license plate may mail a copy of their vehicle’s registration card (current through August 2019), driver’s license number, and preferred plate number to the Effingham County Fair, PO Box 212 in Altamont by Feb. 1, 2019. Plates may be displayed starting on June 5 and expire at midnight on Aug. 3.

The fair board devoted part of their discussion to the sponsorship program, which allows local businesses to submit donations to the fair in exchange for advertisement in fair publications and around the fair grounds. “We have been able  to make improvements to the fair because of those donations,” said Alwardt in an emailed statement after the meeting. Fair Board president Phil Hartke thanked one such sponsor, the Effingham County Farm Bureau, for their generosity in supporting construction on the Farm Bureau Building, located on the inside of the track.

Additionally, Alvin and Kellie Siebert presented a design and a rationale for a winner’s circle, which Kellie Siebert started thinking of after visiting the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. The winner’s circle, if produced, could offer additional safety to spectators leaving the stands to take photos by a winning horse, as photos are normally  taken on the track with other jockeys warming up nearby. No action was taken on the winner’s circle at the meeting, though preliminary designs were distributed to attendees.

Hartke also mentioned the possibility of a fireworks show at the 2019 fair, as well as plans for a historic fair book including reprints of information from books dating back to 1944, and possible extension of last year’s shuttle service into Effingham. Board member Dale Laue commented that

he fair would double down on efforts to maintain a healthy and influential social media presence, particularly through the fair’s website and Facebook page, and race superintendent Dean Wetherell gave attendees an update on the fair’s racing program. In 2020, Wetherell and Karl Becker reported, Altamont will host the Illinois Downstate Classic, a state-sponsored horse race, and the county fair will place four members on the Downstate Classic’s Board. “It should be a real feather in the hat on the fair,” Becker said.

Finally, Hartke commented that the fair hoped to welcome country and gospel artist Josh Turner to the 2019 fair. Negotiation are ongoing, but Hartke said the fair is “99 percent sure” that Turner will appear as the fair’s headline act.

Alwardt presented the fair’s financial statement for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31. Notably, the fair reported a net income of $52,359.35 despite a drop in attendance due in part to poor weather and rainouts.

Members also voted for five chairpersons on the board. Incumbents Wendell Alwardt, Darren Feldkamp, Emilie Wall, and Howard Winter were re-elected for additional three-year turns, and newcomer Jennifer Hecht was appointed to the final seat. Incumbent Larry Maxwell did not seek re-election, instead choosing to retire from the fair board. Maxwell was given a plaque recognizing his years of service.

Board members also recognized Bernard “Bernie” Haarmann, the fair’s veterinarian of 35 years, as the 2018 Friend of the Fair, and held a moment of silence in memory of Wilbert Schaefer.

The 2019 Effingham County Fair will be held from July 27 until Aug. 3.

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