The Adams County Fair originated back in 1941 as a fall festival and livestock show. It was a one-day event held “on the square” in Mendon. While most events these days are held in the evening, at that time there were no night time activities. The original board officers were as follows: Vernon O’Brien, president; Harry Evans, vice president; Sidney Wright, secretary; and Walter Wessel, treasurer. Board members were: Virgil M. Conover, A. M. Parrick, Joel Dickerman, Lloyd M. Curry, Ralph Clair, Wilmer Cornwell, Ray Thyson and Glenn Mittelberg.
In 1942, the Mendon Lions Club sponsored the 'Mendon County Fair' on the grounds of the town's High School. The annual event stayed there until 1950. This was the first "Adams County Fair," and patterned what it has become today. The Adams County Fair celebrates its 75th year in 2016.
“There must have been 500 head of livestock there,” said Glenn Mittelberg of the 1942 fair. “It has been the youth and livestock that’s kept the fair going all these years.”
The current Adams County Fair would never be what it is today without the foresight of three board members Glenn Mittelberg, Vernon O’Brien and Harry Evans. In 1943 the men signed a $3,000 bank note at the Mendon State Bank to “keep the fair going.” It was a personal risk for all of them, but the fair stayed afloat and grew.
In 1950 board members purchased thirty acres of land at the fair's current location south of Mendon. At that time members issued a new charter creating the Adams County Fair Association. An additional 50 acres was purchased later at the north side of the grounds.
The first construction project on the grounds was the current metal quonset building. Through the years the board replaced tents with permanent livestock barns, expanded the one-room office and added the grandstand. Despite all the changes livestock exhibitions and the local 4-H program remains a vital part of the annual event.
Entertainment has changed greatly since 1941. The first evening event was the ‘society’ horse show. Through the years, the Adams County Fair has adapted to the changes times and tastes in entertainment. Selections have ranged from horse, mule and tractor pulls to top stars and entertainment personalities. The Miss Adams County Fair Pageant was added in 1965.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, causing serious implications for every day life. Mandates issued in the state of Illinois required health department approval, social distancing and caps on the number of people who could be together in one place. Those mandates forced all fairs to close in the state of Illinois.
While we are down this year, the fair board is using this downtime to make improvements to the grounds. We look forward to a big return in 2021!
What began as a one-day festival has grown to a seven-day event that captures the attention of the entire Tri-State area. We are proud to say the Adams County Fair ranks among the best in the state and the Midwest. We invite you to 'Experience the Difference,' at this year's fair!