Many things have changed over the past 75 years, but the spirit of the Georgetown Fair stays the same.
Throughout its history, the fair has been a place where people exhibit livestock and produce, exchange agricultural goods, engage in friendly competitions and strengthen social bonds.
“It’s the tradition of the fair — a time to get together with folks you haven’t seen for some time,” said Milton Dalenberg, president of the fair board.
With Vermilion County covering such a wide area, people might not see each other except a few times a year. The Georgetown Fair — which attracts people from Indiana, as well — gives them a chance to catch up, Dalenberg said, citing the “friendships and memories that happen during the fair.”
This year’s fair is special because it’s marking its 75th anniversary. That history will be emphasized, Dalenberg said, along with the usual lineup of activities — pageants, competitions, livestock exhibits, music, a carnival, bingo, demolition derby, trivia night, motocross racing, petting zoo, tractor pull — and, of course, plenty of food.
Carnivals and street fairs have been held in Georgetown since 1931, and the first official fair was held in 1938, thanks to two agriculture teachers. Called the Georgetown 4-H Fair and Livestock Show, it featured five divisions of horses, dairy cattle and poultry, as well as vegetables, grain and home economics.
The early fairs were held at various sites around town, and the carnival was set up at the city park or on the city square. The only year without a scheduled fair was 1954.
By 1948, the event was recognized by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as an official county fair, thus making it eligible to receive up to $6,000. A portion of that was set aside for acquiring grounds and a building for exhibits.
In July 1954, the Georgetown Agricultural Fair Association was incorporated. A land purchase was undertaken seeking first 12 acres and then, an additional 5 acres. The original land was purchased from Paul Bonebrake just east of the city park. Later, additional acreage was purchased from the Sheliko family to bring the total to about 38 acres.