In the mid-1800's (following a little skullduggery) a final decision was made locating the county seat in Pittsfield. Because of the railroad which ran through Griggsville (the primary means of 'commuting' in those days) the Fair was located in on it's present site. In 1888, we opened with the name of The Illinois Valley Fair.
People would come on the train in droves (that's a lot!) to see the harness races and sulky ridden horses which were the main event. Griggsville had the nicest track in Illinois at the time, and people came from other states to participate. Visitors would bring picnic lunches and stay for the day till the train came back to get them that evening. It was the largest event in Pike County.
Starting with the 2002 fair season "new blood" in the Board of Directors undertook the challenge of revitalizing the fair. Thanks to the efforts of President Rob Webel, support of the public and untold thousands of hours of volunteer labor, the fair is financially solvent once again. Better events and increasing numbers of attendants have both allowed us to make drastic improvements in the fair grounds, and attract higher quality events and sponsors, making us one of the premier events in the area.
Many of the improvements are unnoticed by the public. Lighting and electrical distribution are necessary items that most don't consider, but were one of our major headaches. We continue to evaluate our buildings and fairgrounds and several new permanent event areas have been built over the past decade.
Motocross racing was added in 2003, and the wild success of that prompted us to to build a larger Motocross track for the 2004 season. However, as our events needs changed, we converted the hills and valleys of the track to allow for more spectator viewing areas, commonly known as the "infield berm."
2003 also was the first year for our school bus demolition derby, and event that continues to grow in popularity both among spectators and participants. Bus Derby Night continues to be our single biggest event for good reason!
2004 brought the first Mud Bog to the fair. We anticipated 20-25 entries, and were delighted by the response of over 75 participants making. 2004 was also the first year of many technical improvements; most of these will go un-noticed by attendees, but from our side of the counter we can't believe how much better things are.
For 2005, we performed a major renovation to our quaint, aging "turn of the century" grandstand. While keeping the traditional roofline (and shelter from sun and rain) we installed new aluminum bleachers. We also broke with tradition and moved the harness racing to Wednesday Evening. For the first time in 117 years, horses raced under the lights.
Tractor Pulls have always been a staple item at fairs, and in recent years, we have 'promoted' our tractor pulls to grandstand events.
In 2007, the City of Griggsville voted to abolish their prohibition laws. For the first time in almost a century, the Fair featured controlled alcohol. Let's face the facts: for years the consumption of alcohol was a common feature of the evening activities, often with uncontrolled and unpredictable results. With the new system in place, the Fair Board of Directors are now able to strictly control the consumption of alcohol. We feel the Fair is now a safer and better policed environment.
The availability of alcohol also means that we can now bring back the popular band events.
2009 marked the passing of long-time Fair Secretary, Norma Connour. Although Norma's heath prevented her from being on the grounds for the past few years, her behind the scenes for decades helped make the Western Illinois Fair a success.
Also in 2009, we lost our long time President and Fearless Leader, Rod Webel, in an accident that was both tragic and so fitting of Rod's caring nature. Rod's leadership and gentle demeanor will be missed and his passing is a great loss to the world, but we intend to carry on his vision.
In 2011 and beyond, we were pleased to announce the return of Western Illinois Fair Queen Pageant. Unlike a county fair, the Western Illinois Fair is a regional fair, which allows us to choose our queen from contestants hailing from Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Morgan, Pike and Scott counties.
On behalf of the Staff and Sponsors, THANK YOU!
President: Scott Dunham
Vice-President: Greg Smith
Treasurer: Brian White
Executive Secretary: Lynn Freeman
Office Manager: Mary Lynn Brown
Illinois Highway 107, three miles north of Interstate 72 at Exit 35. Cross the railroad tracks into Griggsville and take the first left. You can't miss us!