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Gathering of fairs in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Those involved with county fairs around the state will gather in Springfield this weekend to celebrate their accomplishments in the past year and get new ideas for 2020.

The annual Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs convention takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Conference Center Friday through Monday. The convention is a celebration of the many volunteers who donate countless hours to local fairs every summer.

“County fairs could not exist unless we had the volunteers,” admits Charlyn Fargo Ware, secretary/treasurer for IAAF.

This year’s IAAF convention will feature something for everyone, according to Ware. A trade show opens Friday with “get acquainted” sessions for members where they can learn from each other.

“We’ve got some sponsors who are going to be doing part of that with how to put on a concert and how to get some good concerts,” said Ware.

The entertainment showcase is Friday evening, hosted by Central Illinois Farm Network’s own Kent Casson, where the county fairs book their entertainment for the coming season. A number of bands will perform on two different stages this year which means more groups will be featured than ever before. Plus, complimentary wine and ice cream will be served.

Talent Show finals are Saturday and the brand new Miss Illinois County Fair Queen will be chosen on Sunday. Ware estimates around 3,000 people visit the convention each year.

“Not everybody stays the entire time,” Ware explained. “Sometimes, they want to just be part of the talent show or just come for the showcase.”

A motivational speaker for the Saturday morning breakfast meeting comes from Texas and is married to an astronaut with her own radio show.

“I try to get a speaker who is somewhat motivational so we can get geared-up and do this all over again this summer.”

The IAAF convention is not open to the public as it is strictly for Illinois County Fair members and associate members. More information on the organization can be found online at:

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