Fair learns from Indiana

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WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Fair, which drew to a close Sunday, made history during the five-day affair.

Fairgoers were evacuated Saturday afternoon when wild weather rolled through the area – a first for the event, Fair President Dick Crone said.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have [closed in the past],” said Crone, of Harvard.

As high winds and strong storms moved in, attendees were ushered out.

The evacuation order lasted about 1½ hours.

Crone said the McHenry County Fair took a lesson from last year’s Indiana State Fair, in which seven people were killed when high winds caused a stage to collapse.

“What happened at the Indiana State Fair ... was an awareness lesson on how serious you have to take a major storm front coming through,” Crone said.

“It’s always good to be on the safe side in case of a severe weather event. ... There are thousands of people on the grounds at any time,” Crone said.

But the show went on. In fact, Crone said attendance was “strong” later that night and carried over as visitors enjoyed Sunday’s cooler, 80-degree temperatures.

“That’s like asking me which of my grandkids I love the most,” Crone said when asked how this year’s fair compared to the past. “They’ve all been great. I’ve got so many memories from the fair.”

Specific attendance figures were not available Sunday.

Many attendees Sunday bustled from booth to booth, stopped for games, saw the farm animals and waited in line for carnival rides. The fair’s finale also was a big attraction – the demolition derby. Others came for the food.

Huntley neighbors Erin Wood and Katie Olson responded in perfect unison when asked what is the quintessential fair food.

“Funnel cake and corn dogs,” the pair said.

But not everybody was completely satisfied; Woodstock resident Bob McCann complained about parking issues.

“Compared to some other fairs, it’s not as efficient,” said McCann, who also attends fairs in Kane County and one in Maine. “Parking is always a problem here. It’s fairly inefficient. People are coming and going through the same entrance way.”

Crone didn’t disagree. There is one access point to the fair through Country Club Road, and Sunday, traffic delays in all directions were common.

“You always learn what you can do better next time,” said Crone, who added he wants to explore the idea of widening the fair’s access point.

Not the least bit concerned about parking issues, 12-year-old Rebekah Shearer was happy to talk about the nine-patch pillow that netted her a blue ribbon. Rebekah is a member of McHenry County 4-H Club Keepers of the Clover.

“It’s actually one of the best [fairs] since I’ve done 4-H for the past five years,” the Woodstock girl said. “There are more people and a little bit more rides.”

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