The Morgan County Fair Board encourages visitor interaction with new festivities such as karaoke, a poker walk and STEAM activities during the 2018 festival July 11-14 at the Morgan County Fairgrounds in Versailles.
The fair board added a different interactive event last year, a Obstacle Course Challenge and Fun Night during its opening evening of the fair. Morgan County Fair Board President J.T. Gerlt said it went well, but the board decided to go a different route and add more diverse activities to other nights this year.
"We decided to add more events to Thursday and try to build up that night and revisit something for Wednesday night next year," he said, noting the fair has grown tremendously since its first festival in 1942. "The fair board has worked to expand our schedule of events. Many people like that the fair has the traditional county fair feel with livestock shows, home (economics) contests and things. The challenge has been to keep those events while adding new and fresh stuff that will attract new and younger attendees."
Three new events will take place July 12, beginning with the Morgan County 4-H, University Extension and Morgan County Library's STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) activities. All free for children to enjoy, the event is 5-7 p.m. under the 4-H Pavilion.
Attendees 18 and older can participate from 7-9 p.m. in the new Poker Walk. Guests visit five locations at the fairgrounds to try to draw the best poker hand. The best hand will receive $100, Gerlt said. Cost is $10 per hand, with an option for a $5 bonus card.
Karaoke Country invites music enthusiasts to enjoy free karaoke and DJ music under the open air market pavilion, which was part of a new building project completed before the fair last year. Karaoke spectators are also welcome to bring lawn chairs and enjoy singing and listening to some of their favorite songs 8-9 p.m. July 12.
Another big event returning to the Morgan County Fair grandstand arena Thursday evening is the Dirt Bike, ATV and UTV Rodeo at 7 p.m. Presented by Hwy 65 MX, the rodeo features barrels, poles and keyhole activities, and has 15 different classes for children and adults and styles of vehicles. Awards will be given to the top three in each class. Money classes are open to any size and payout for money classes are $40 for first place, $30 for second and $20 for third. The entry fee is $20 a class. Admission to watch is free.
Due to scheduling conflicts one event was not held during the fair, but fair enthusiasts are excited to see the return of Figure 8 Scramble, Powder Puff and kids Power Wheels Race at 7 p.m. July 14 at the grandstand arena. While cars battle it out in the Figure 8 race, guests can also smash a vehicle with a sledge hammer during the Boy Scout Troop 138 Car Bash.
Entertainment is a big draw to the Morgan County Fair, and Madd Hoss Jackson will perform at 7 p.m. Hailing from Mt. Sterling, Illinois, the "hard-working, hard-playing" guys pride themselves on being "family-oriented first and foremost," according to the band's Facebook page. They have developed a fan base that has grown throughout the Midwest due to their ability to change styles and instrumentation and put their own trademark on familiar songs, as well as produce original hits and are touring with a new album in tow. These country artists have shared the stage with many current and classic artists including Eric Church, Montgomery Gentry, Charlie Daniels Band, Jake Owen, Hunter Hayes, the Kentucky Headhunters, Confederate Railroad and .38 Special, to name a few, the Facebook page said. Admission is $5 for everyone 21 and older.
Families have also enjoyed the Show Me Amusements Carnival that offers a variety of rides, food and games.
"The Show Me Amusements Carnival has been a great addition. They have a clean carnival and have added a couple more rides (this year)," Gerlt said. "We had people ask for more armband sessions and we have been able to add more."
The carnival will be open 5-10 p.m. July 12-13 and day and evening hours July 14. Armbands each night are $20 per person.
Fair-goers also enjoy one of the festival's core activities, the 4-H and FFA project showcases and competitions.
Check-in for those projects is 5-7:30 p.m. July 10, with 4-H and FFA ham check-in at the home economics building. The home economics division check-in is 6-8:30 p.m. July 11 at the home economics building, and judging for the hay bale decorating contest will take place the same day. Home economics division check-in continues 7:30 a.m.-noon July 12, with the home economics division auction at 7 p.m.
A slew of competitions begin July 13, starting with rabbit, poultry and swine check-ins from 7-8 a.m., with swine and rabbit shows beginning at 9 a.m. The poultry show will follow the rabbit show.
Cabbage patch check-in is noon-5 p.m. July 13, with open bucket calf, pee-wee swine, goat and sheep check-in 5-5:30 p.m. The open bucket calf show starts at 6 p.m., followed by the pee-wee swine, bucket calf, goat/sheep and pee wee pig shows.
Cattle, goats and sheep check-in is 7-8 a.m. July 14, with the dairy goat, goat and sheep show at 8 a.m. The 4-H Bucket Calf Show, dairy show and beef show will follow. A premium sale is also scheduled for 3 p.m. July 14.
A free grain bin safety training is set for 1 p.m. next to the 4-H Pavilion, and those participating in many of the livestock shows will appreciate renovations to the barn.
"Volunteers with the fair board, 4-H, FFA and other community members have been working on improvements to the livestock barn. They have rebuilt the livestock loading and unloading area to make that better," Gerlt said. "Due to an increase number of cattle for the livestock area they have also added an additional cattle wash area."
Attendees can feast from a variety of choices at the Versailles Lions Club Cook Shack and quench their thirst with Bee's Knees Ale House's craft beers each night of the fair. The Lions Club will also host a 50/50 raffle starting at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.