There's a fair bit going on in Ford County

There's a fair bit going on in Ford County

Regulars of county fairs know the adrenaline rush of carnival rides and the familiar crunch of a deep-fried funnel cake. But with all the standard elements of a fair aside, Ford County's annual event has grown to become an attraction to visitors from places far and wide since 1926 — and includes everything from live music to livestock shows.

"Other fairs in Illinois have a lot more popularity and sponsors than what we deal with," said fair President KIRK MILLER said. "For a small populous county, we have one of the best fairs. All of our events are top-notch."

Miller said the Melvin fair can easily expect over 10,000 visitors — in addition to its 14,000-person population — when it runs Sunday through June 30. Here's THERESE POKORNEY with a primer on what to expect.

1. Melvin's Got Talent

Seven young women will compete Monday night for the title of Miss Ford County. In the mix to succeed KELSEY VAUGHN, the competition will consist of KATELYN CRABB, KAITI ZBINDEN, AUTUMN FLESSNER, LESLIE LAWSON, DEANNA DIESBURG, KAITLYN HARDERS and MERCEDES WISE.

Happening one night later: the talent show, in which two contestants will be chosen to represent Ford County at January's Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention in Springfield.

"Growing up, I always looked forward to the talent show," said volunteer and fair ticket saleswoman CHRISTY WALLACE. "So many people are excited and shocked that we can bring in so much talent to the Ford County Fair."

2. Hogs, sheep and rabbits

Local animal raisers will bring a lineup of livestock to compete for ribbons and cash prizes each day. Wallace, a longtime cattle shower and fair-goer for over 35 years, looks forward to the livestock shows every year.

"My very first memory of the Ford County Fair was when I showed sheep," she said. "Livestock shows are a family event. My grandpa was a part of the fair board and my parents helped, too. The shows were a family thing that just kept going."

The livestock portion of the fair kicks off at 8 a.m. Monday, with the junior class hog show.

3. A taste of country

At 7 p.m. Friday, country rising star CRAIG CAMPBELL will open for Grammy-winning headliner TRAVIS TRITT.

"It's our most popular event and the highlight of the fair," Miller said. "The show attracts the largest crowds from places outside Illinois."

Following the show, JORDAN DAVIS will perform in the Beer Tent until midnight.