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Columns

Pat Wallis: Souvenirs, volunteers always a big part of the Sandwich Fair

Collectibles for the 131st Sandwich Fair, offered by the Sandwich Historical Society, will memorialize the Illinois Bicentennial Year. Patriotic themes and colors are used on the poster that features a vintage-style lady, a trivet that depicts eight historical Sandwich Fair buildings, and a white porcelain toothpick holder with gold print surrounded by blue and red markings. The poster is available now at the Stone Mill Museum, 115 E. Railroad St. It’s open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through September, hosted by members of the Sandwich Historical Society. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Collectibles for the 131st Sandwich Fair, offered by the Sandwich Historical Society, will memorialize the Illinois Bicentennial Year. Patriotic themes and colors are used on the poster that features a vintage-style lady, a trivet that depicts eight historical Sandwich Fair buildings, and a white porcelain toothpick holder with gold print surrounded by blue and red markings. The poster is available now at the Stone Mill Museum, 115 E. Railroad St. It’s open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through September, hosted by members of the Sandwich Historical Society. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Collectors come out of the woodwork when it’s time for the Sandwich Fair, and they’re not all from Sandwich.

They come from miles around, possibly surrounding states, to buy toothpick holders, posters and other items offered by the Sandwich Historical Society at its booth just east of Augie Otto’s Miniature Steam Train’s ticket office. 

This year, the society is selling items with a patriotic theme and colors. White porcelain toothpick holders with gold printing surrounded by red and blue sketches, and 6-inch square trivets depicting eight historical Sandwich Fair buildings are both $20 each; posters of a vintage lady are $4. 

There’s also a wide selection of souvenirs offered at the Sandwich Fair’s Gazebo that includes T-shirts, pottery, lapel pins, hats and a stuffed animal with the year and logo printed on them. It’s in front of the yellow Victorian-style Home Arts Building, formerly called the Women’s Building.

Many collectibles from previous years and large photographs can be seen at the Sandwich Fair Museum. It’s just south of the Windmill, near the livestock area, shown in most maps or guides of the fairgrounds.  

The Sandwich Fair is an old-fashioned country-style event with folks walking the grounds with their families, visiting with friends and strangers. Many of the food and other booths and stands are operated by local and area churches, senior citizen organizations, sports boosters and fraternal clubs.  

Nearly all of them have volunteers working in shifts behind counters. From early morning throughout the day until closing, volunteers help prepare, cook and serve food.

They work at cash registers, wash tables and dishes, make soup and chili, flip hamburgers at grills, then fry eggs, sausage and bacon in the mornings.

Both volunteering and working at the fair is an important part of countless lives.

Over the years, many teenagers have sold and taken tickets at the entrances and directed cars in orderly fashion in the parking lots. 

Sometimes there are youngsters behind the counter at food stands. I’ll never forget an incident about 10 years ago when I offered to help at the Log Cabin food stand.

It was originally an actual log cabin built during the Depression by the Sandwich Methodist Church’s Adult Sunday School Class. They used old telephone poles that were given to the church.

After it became dilapidated, it was torn down and replaced with a fine pole barn that has screened-in seating for customers and work areas for volunteers.

Anyway, after putting on my apron that year at the Log Cabin, I started gathering food and beverages to fill orders on a cashier’s list. I waited one place to fill cups with beverages, other places for french fries, hamburgers, chili and slices of pie. One little girl, who was about 10 years old, was so sweet and experienced!

She stopped me and said, “We can do this better if you get the beverages and I get the food.”  

She gave me such a lift! Knowing a child can help so willingly and have a such a refined sense of kindness still brings a smile to my face.

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