The theme at this year's Warren County Fair is "Celebrating a Century of Fairs and Agriculture."
At the annual media luncheon Tuesday, Warren County Commissioner Stephen Vanco spoke about the fair's history and agriculture within the county. Back in 1850, he said, the fair started as a one-day event.
Different fairs were held in competition with each other, Vanco said, and some folded up. When he started showing cattle in 1971, Vanco said, he remembered watching Crystal Gayle perform.
Courtney Stewart performs during the media luncheon at the Warren County Fair on Tuesday.
"I've done a lot of judging at fairs, but this one is the most attractive," Vanco said.
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vanco said, any business making over $1,000 in income from agriculture is considered a farm. They counted 499 farms for 2002 in the county and 831 in 2007, he said, and the average size has fallen from 150 acres to 120 acres in that time.
That is due to an increase in roadside stands, Vanco said, and also Amish farms which often get split into two or three different ones. There were 99,000 acres of county farmland in 2007, he said, which was an increase of 28 percent compared to 2002 even though the average farm size dropped by 23 percent.
Also in 2007, Vanco said, there was $19 million worth of agriculture business done in the county. Due to the increase of grain prices, he said that figure has likely gone up since then.
In the past five years, Vanco said, government payments have dropped 46 percent per farm family. The average annual payment in the county is $3,900.
"It's nice to have, but it doesn't mean a lot," he said.
Most importantly, Vanco said, agriculture involves a different way of life. Those who farm have a different way of treating both people and animals, he said, and he encouraged everyone to talk to farmers throughout the week.
Courtney Stewart of Knox performed "For All the World to See" and "I'll be Waiting" at the luncheon. She was scheduled to open for Justin Moore during Tuesday evening's concert.
Fair Board President Dave Wilcox said he wants the fair to be the best they ever had. With all of its history, Wilcox said, he doesn't know if it can be done.
Fair Director Doris Labowski said she hoped for good weather during the week. Also, she wants to break the attendance record of 58,320.