Volunteers (from left) Kaylynn Owens, Brigette Owens and Gracie Alexander paint a trash barrel at the Saline County Fairgrounds. A major renovation effort headed by the county 4-H club and cattlemen’s association is injecting new life into the fair.
Volunteers (from left) Kaylynn Owens, Brigette Owens and Gracie Alexander paint a trash barrel at the Saline County Fairgrounds. A major renovation effort headed by the county 4-H club and cattlemen’s association is injecting new life into the fair.

HARRISBURG, Ill. — The Saline County Fair is getting more than just a new coat of paint this summer. It is getting a dollop of pride.

Dozens of youth and adult volunteers have put in hours to provide the fairgrounds with a fresh look and to revitalize the event.

“Everybody works well together. That makes it lots of fun,” said Nancy Evans, who along with her husband, Dan, leads an energized 4-H club here.

The eager throng turned out in full force prior to this year’s fair, which will run Sunday through Saturday, July 21-27.

Members of the Pleasant Valley Go-Getters 4-H Club — joined by parents and other adult volunteers — put in a number of hours painting and fixing up facilities affected by time and lack of funding in recent years.

“They’re doing trash barrels, repainting the fence around the show arena and painting the walls that go around the showroom and the announcer’s stand,” Nancy Evans said. “They’re going to do some painting on some other 4-H buildings that are weathered.”

Dan and Nancy Evans have been 4-H leaders for 30 years. The Pleasant Valley club was started by Dan Evans’ father 58 years ago.

While there still is popular support for the fair, sharp funding cuts have contributed to a decline of events and facilities in recent years.

“Not too many years ago, this county got $60,000 from the state,” Dan Evans said. “Last year, we got a measly $13,000. That puts into perspective that we have to do a lot of things on the local level.”

Support by the community has been key. Fair leaders — the Evanses’ son, Chris, is president — have reached out for assistance.

The response has been strong. Local businesses have donated both cash and in-kind gifts such as supplies.

“We’re doing many local things, with local sponsors,” Dan Evans said. “And we have a really strong stockmen’s association. Last year, we generated over $20,000, and we spent it on kids.

“There is a lot of local sponsorship, with some business donating things for us to use and give away as prizes. We’re selling T-shirts, anything we can do to raise some money.”

“A lot of other businesses, 4-H parents and people have really stepped up to help,” Nancy Evans added. “We have a really great 4-H program here.”

A central portion of the effort is concentrated among the 4-H club. Striking a happy coincidence, the club — which is 58 years old this year — has a membership of 58.

The 4-H members and other volunteers worked for three days to make the reparations. They will be rewarded with an old-fashioned ice cream social with ice cream that also was donated.

“This is a building-up year,” Nancy Evans said. “Things get worn, and it’s time to repair.”

This year’s fair will include a tractor pull for the first time in 13 years and the first rodeo in nearly a decade.

The Western horse show is back after a six-year absence. In addition, events will include motocross, a tractor pull, a demolition derby and mud races.

The re-energized event likely will expand over the next few years, according to Dan Evans, with more events added and enlarged.