SEGMENT: ILLINOIS STATE FAIR

Pam Gray>ISM Interviews A-L>ISM Interviews A-L, Segment 11

SEGMENT: ILLINOIS STATE FAIR,

duration 13:43
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ILLINOIS STATE FAIR
Exhibits and competitions in early State Fairs included fruit, vegetables, tallest corn stalk, singing groups, vaudeville acts, freak shows, horse racing, dog racing, and biggest horses, cattle, and hogs. All the contests were agriculture based. She is researching the history of Fair contests and competition. The rewards for competition were significant. She has information that shows the winners of every competition in the 1853 State Fair. Her goal is to create a database that will show contest winners for each State Fair. The database will allow families to research their own family history as it relates to the State Fair. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has a listing of all premiums paid out to competitors for all the State Fairs. In 1853, the total amount paid in premiums was $954. Individual winners typically received a 50 cent piece, $1 or $2. Ribbons were also given to competitors. Recently, Premium books for all State Fairs dating back to the early 1900s were donated to the Museum by a family with 6 generations of competition experience at the Illinois State Fair. Ribbons from 1899 identified. Now prizes are cash. Now there is a seniors spelling bee contest. Prize was $150. Ribbons are still given today. A collection of ribbons has been assembled throughout the years. State Fair is unusual in its longevity of 155 years. In the beginning, the Fair organizers recognized that the goal should be to eventually appeal to groups other than farmers. Children, senior citizens, other groups are now the focus as well as agriculture. Smile contest, pony-tail contest, 4-H participants that show in local county fairs are a key component of the State Fair. Now there are beer tents, hog and husband calling contests. Fair seeks to target different age groups. Agriculture is still the majority of what the State Fair is about. Family Tradition is the theme for the 2008 Fair. Story that she wishes to leave for others from interview involves a story of a woman that called and said her deceased mother had a fruit display picture when she died. The woman wanted to donate this display to the Museum. The woman's mother had won the fruit display at the 1936 State Fair at age 15. Her parents had given her a project of raising fruit to show at the State Fair. At the time, such a prize and dedication to a project was a big deal. The 15 year old wasn't playing Nintendo or on the internet. She won first place for her effort. After her marriage, she had 6 children. The woman's fruit display had been displayed on the wall for 68 years. Pam feels that people make the Museum what it is.