Heavy rains Sunday morning left vendor tents with their flaps down at the start of the 50th annual Fair Diddley. Die-hards who had ascended on the historic Woodstock Square in anticipation of the 10 a.m. start were left huddling under umbrellas and storefront awnings or clamoring into local businesses to take intermittent shelter, but they were not deterred.
A passer-by braving the puddle-filled Square commented that “at least it’s not snowing, like it did three years ago.”
Tammy Johnson of Algonquin and her mother, Gail Hundley of Huntley, sat at a table in Starbucks, grabbing a quick snack before they headed to the event.
“We’ve been coming here together for about 20 years,” Johnson said. “It’s a fun thing we do together. It gives us some bonding time. We love the uniqueness of the vendors, and they come from so many different areas. You get to see so many cool ideas in one place.”
The pair makes their own semi-precious jewelry for craft shows in the area, and they love to see what’s trending as well as get ideas.
“We look for what you can’t find in the stores,” Hundley said. “It’s interesting to speak to the vendors and see where they’ve come from, and we love supporting them. You can really find some beautiful one-of-a-kind things.”
Johnson and Hundley waited out the rain, hopeful that the clouds would lift. They did, and the tent flaps followed.
The 300-plus vendors, mainly hailing from Illinois and Wisconsin, ran the gamut of offerings from handmade jewelry and lawn ornaments to all-natural pest deterrent and marionettes to frozen butter beer.
Presented by the Mental Health Resource League for McHenry County, Fair Diddley benefits the mental health-related agencies in McHenry County. In 2017, Fair Diddley and Fall Diddley raised about $215,000 for local agencies. The league is composed of more than 100 volunteers.
“Mental health touches so many people in so many ways,” said Nancy Majercik, the group’s corresponding secretary. “It’s always in the mix of whatever else might be going on with someone health wise. I’ve been with the league for
10 years, and it’s so hard to give it up because there is still just so much to be done, and there aren’t a lot of outlets for funding in Illinois.”
Majercik loves the fact that Fair Diddley brings together people from so many different communities in terms of vendors and attendees.
“What’s really cool is that it brings people from outside of our community in,” Majercik said. “I spoke to a woman this morning that drove four hours to be here. It’s the first craft event in the area for the spring, so people like to come and see what the year might have to offer from a craft perspective.”
When it comes to Troy Thomas, screen-printed outdoor apparel is on the menu. A 19-year Fair Diddley vendor, Thomas’ “Fish Face” brand offers T-shirts with outdoor sayings. His most popular is “One day, they’ll name a lure after me.”
Thomas hoped the rain would not deter some of his friends and regulars. This was Thomas’ final appearance at Fair Diddley because the 30-year Woodstock resident is moving to Asheville, North Carolina, later this week.
“It’s a really great show to be a part of, and it’s really cool to be able to do it in your hometown and see a bunch of familiar, friendly faces,” Thomas said. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it all.”
Fall Diddley will be Oct. 13 and 14 at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Belvidere.