DECATUR — If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
That’s the mantra from Macon County Fair officials, as final preparations are made for the 162nd edition of the event. The fair begins at 5 p.m. today and runs through Sunday at its longtime home on Decatur's northwest side, 3700 North Westlawn Avenue.
Admission will be $2 per person, and free for children 3 and younger. Parking is free, and the fair opens at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s going to be similar to what we had last year,” said Teresa McWilliams, the fair’s treasurer. “We saw what people enjoyed last year, so we’re going to try and stick with what worked for us.”
Along with the the typical carnival rides and commercial vendors, other fair events include:
A free petting zoo from Thursday to Sunday. Pony rides will also be available for $5
The Macon County Fair Pageant at 7 p.m. Thursday
The Illiana Pullers Association Track and Truck Pulls at 6 p.m. Friday
The Adorable Baby Contest at 1 p.m. Saturday
The C-Bar Rodeo and the 2018 Illinois State Fair Karaoke Contest, both at 7 p.m. Saturday
The swine livestock show at 2 p.m. Sunday
The “Macon Some Mayhem” demolition derby at 6 p.m. Sunday
The Macon County Fair Pageant will include three age brackets this year, according to the pageant’s co-director Amy Dobrinick. Those include the Miss Macon County Fair Queen, Junior Miss Macon County Fair and Little Miss Macon County Fair.
Winners will be crowned on Thursday evening, with the Miss Macon County Fair Queen to move on to compete in January for the title of Miss Illinois County Fair for 2019.
Part of the reason the board decided to follow a similar blueprint to last year was because the event's success. McWilliams said they ended last year’s fair with total attendance numbers just under 10,000, an increase compared to previous fairs.
One element missing from the fair will be live concerts. While community members have publicly said they want live music, McWilliams said attendance numbers for recent shows have not justified the cost of booking acts.
“(We’re) still not in that kind of financial shape where we can have them and not have anyone show up to pay for them,” she said.
The fair’s financial situation has become much sunnier in recent years, with its debt in the low four-figures, McWilliams said. That’s compared to four years ago, when officials were forced to strip down many activities to bring down a debt of nearly $400,000.
With that chapter now behind them, the fair can focus on ways to build on what makes people love going, said Evan Hall, a new member of the fair board.
“We’re trying to build up the fair for the coming years, and we’re expecting to have a good turnout,” Hall said.
Now an account executive at J.L. Hubbard, Hall remembers growing up on a farm near Warrensburg and loving to spend his summers at the fair. The livestock shows of his youth have slowly started to come back to the event, and Hall said he is hopeful the fair can improve and once again become a summer staple for the region.
“It’s a long-term process to grow our local fair ... to reconnect with the community,” he said.