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View from the Cab: Winter fair fun

By: Kent Casson

Our family’s annual trip to the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention in Springfield may have come and gone, but it was an unforgettable experience as usual.

Each year we get to enjoy a weekend at the Crowne Plaza as fair boards from all over the state gather to discuss the industry while enjoying the state level talent show, which includes junior and senior divisions, and the crowning of Miss Illinois County Fair Queen.

Being involved with the convention since 2013, I always see many familiar faces when we are there. The county fair family in Illinois is a big one and like agriculture, we are all connected somehow.

My job is to emcee the showcase event Friday evening which includes a number of bands and live performers, such as circus acts or other entertainment. This event is where fairs can choose their entertainment. If they like what a band sounds like, they may ask them to perform on stage at their event the following summer.

Fairbury’s own Bill Fugate got me involved with the IAAF convention years ago when I spoke to the crowd about social media and steps fairs could take to spread their message online. This led into my emcee role in the years since.

This year’s showcase did not disappoint – with a variety of music ranging from rock to country and pop. Members of the Cincinnati Circus gave an unforgettable performance full of whips and chair stacking.

I had the honor of introducing all of these acts on stage prior to their performances. I also kept things flowing by thinking of some lively banter along the way and even a few jokes now and then. The crowd is much easier to talk in front of as the wine keeps flowing throughout the evening.

After listening to the keynote speaker Saturday morning and gathering a few interviews at the IAAF breakfast meeting, we explored the hotel. The kids especially liked the escalator in the lobby as they don’t see this kind of thing too often. They also enjoyed looking at the exhibitors in the carnival trade show area.

We dined on take-out pizza, Steak-n-Shake, IHOP and tasty food from a local Irish restaurant and enjoyed being in the capital city even if it was only for a couple of days. Last year we took in all of the Lincoln historic sites so we skipped that this time.

It was a busy week following the IAAF Convention with the Midwest Ag Expo at Gordyville last Wednesday and Thursday. Despite the snowfall, it was great to see everyone out and about at the show. Dad and I made the trip down for day one.

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