SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois county fair volunteers and county fair queens were honored today on opening day of the 2007 Illinois State Fair.
Ken Purvis, a 40-year volunteer for the LaSalle Tri-County Fair and a resident of Mendota, was named “Outstanding County Fair Person of the Year” during an awards luncheon on the Director’s Lawn to celebrate County Fairs and Horse Racing Day.
“His selfless efforts, along with a positive attitude and full toolbox, have allowed the fair to flourish,” Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs President Bill Jennings said.
Purvis, a fair board member for 35 years, developed the county fair’s demolition derby, served as race track chairman for 40 years and truck and tractor pull chairman for 25 years. He first started volunteering for the LaSalle Tri-County Fair when helping with the truck and tractor pull at age 16.
Purvis never truly considered volunteering for a larger, state fair like the Illinois State Fair. “I like being surrounded by people that I know personally,” he said.
Illinois’ county fair queens also were recognized during the festivities. Each introduced themselves to those in attendance, some of them occupied by their little misses and little misters.
A number of volunteers were recognized for 20, 30, and 40 years worth of service.
“I’m often asked ‘How do you keep the county fair schedule that you do in Illinois?’” Jennings said. “It comes from hard work through volunteers like these.”
They service award recipients are as follows:
20 years of service
Mark Brangenberg, Calhoun County
Terry Strauch, Calhoun County
Corinne Brown, Ford County
Mary Liz Wright, Edgar County
Carol Keller, Edgar County
30 years of service
Judy Reimer, Shelby County
Glenn Peterson, Whiteside County
Dean Reeves, Marion County
Russell Vandeveer, Marion County
40 years of service
Marvin Perzee, Iroquois County
Don Smith, Sangamon County
Ron Stickler, Vermillion County-Danville
2007 Ethnic Village Showcases Best World Has to Offer
Wide variety of music and food available at Ethnic Village
If it’s great food and entertainment you’re after at the 2007 Illinois State Fair, look no further than one of the main staples of the fair, Ethnic Village. With food ranging from Thai to Italian to Australian, there’s a wide variety of exotic cuisine to choose from. While enjoying the food, take time to check out the performers, which include bagpipers, steel drummers, polka bands and martial arts exhibitors.
The food at the 2007 Ethnic Village is sure to please anyone looking for a change of pace from the usual variety of fair food. Fourteen different nations are represented: Australia, Holland, the Philippines, Greece, Germany, France, India, Italy, Korea, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, Turkey and Vietnam. A beer booth is also included for adults looking to wet their whistle.
The Italian booth offers freshly made pizza, garlic cheese bread, Italian sausage, chicken parmesan and everyone’s favorite, the Italian beef sandwich. The Ciao Babies have been responsible for the booth for 14 years, according to member Sue Paso. The group, which consists of Paso, her sister Rosemary Weisthart and friend Donna Nall, said they began as vendors at the Farmersville Irish Days Centennial celebration, and later moved to the State Fair. Paso says that the Italian beef has kept many customers coming back over the years, due to the use of secret family herbs and spices.
“At the beginning of the fair every year, we have people coming back, and they always get the beef,” Paso said.
According to the Ciao Babies, the best part of working at the Illinois State Fair for 14 years has been the people who come to their booth.
“The people (are the best part). It’s nice to see old friends and repeat customers every year,” Paso said.
Of course, there’s more to the Ethnic Village than just the food. The wide variety of entertainment and exotic music is just as much a staple as the food. A large number of acts will grace the stage this year, including Steely Pan (Jamaican steel drum music), The Flying Dutchmen (polka), St. Andrews Society of Central Illinois (Celtic dance/bagpipes), Bloomsday (Irish music) and several martial arts displays.
One of those acts, The Flying Dutchmen, has been together since the early 70s, playing their traditional brand of polka music. According to drummer Gary Niehaus, the band traveled to Germany in 1990 to see how the original polka masters plied their craft.
“We went there in July for about 10 days, and we learned to play it the way they play it in Germany,” Niehaus said. “German marches are slower than U.S. marches. We used that to develop an original library of traditional polka music.”
Niehaus said that the band gets its greatest joy from playing in front of people at the State Fair, as well as the other fairs it has played all over Illinois and Missouri the past 30-plus years.
“We enjoy playing for the people,” he said. “Anytime we can, we love to play. Most of our crowd is older people. If we don’t play and if the young people don’t come back, it just dies off.”
“I miss playing polka, because it’s a down home, country type thing. If we didn’t get to play the fair every year, I’d be real disappointed.”