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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

History of the Cherokee County Fair

Monday, June 29, 2009

Although records have it that the first Cherokee County Fair was held in 1872, one year before the incorporation of the City of Cherokee, there does not seem to be an event of that manner again until September 17, 1908, when the predecessor of the now Cherokee County Fair, then known as the Pilot-Rock Plowing Match took place. The plowing match derived its name from the contest that was held to determine the best at turning the soil in an area in the best time. Points were given for straightness and neatness of furrows, conformation of furrows, back furrow and also the covering of trash. Any farmer could volunteer as host. This event was a roving affair that traveled from farm to farm each year. A 40 acre field was needed to lay out the match site, and the oat land that would be planted to corn the next year was generally used. The plowing was always held in September and on a Thursday. There were other events added as the years went on and more and more exhibits. The first was a colt show, then a pulling contest; a poultry show and then ball games with rival teams from nearby townships. At one point in time, there could be counted 17 tents set up on someone's farm to accommodate all the things to see and do at the plowing match. When the war came, the plowing match was suspended and when it resumed it was difficult to renew the enthusiasm of earlier years. A lot of the skill that was used in the old way of plowing was not needed on the bigger and fancier machines. Our plowing match was a testing place for the big companies for many years; they could go to other fairs and talk about their machines, but here they had to prove it. In 1952, the Pilot-Rock Plowing Match Association bought the property that still is used for the Cherokee County Fair today. In 1953, the Pilot-Rock Plowing Match merged with the Cherokee County 4-H Fair and by 1956 the first carnival was on the grounds., and in 1972, the Pilot-Rock Plowing Match officially changed its name to the Cherokee County Fair.

Cherokee County Fair Timeline :

1872 - First Cherokee County Fair (3 day event with fine arts hall, livestock & implement exhibits)

1873 - City of Cherokee Incorporated

1878 -First plowing match held in East Wheatland township, Will County, IL (Pilot-Rock plowing matches were patterned after these plowing matches)

1908- Pilot-Rock Plowing Match was started as a roving event in Pilot and Rock townships on September 17, with 400 people fed at the dinner and 18 entries for plowing

1912 - 4000 people in attendance

1914 - Last year for "thresher style" dinner at noon with fried chicken, boiled ham, baked beans, mashed potatoes, potato salad and pies supplied by the women of the county

1918 - First year for tractor classes and livestock exhibits

1919 - Event became two days to incorporate all the entries

1921 - Annual meeting of the Pilot-Rock Plowing Match Association was referred to as the Cherokee County Livestock Show and Farm Bureau Picnic

1922 - Pilot-Rock Plowing match received national fame in the Country Gentlemen magazine

1923 - Wallace's Farmer, Illinois Central Magazine and Chicago Daily Drover covered the event

1924 - Baby contests were introduced

1937 - Last contest for plowing with horses held

1939 Free acts shown in the afternoon were made night time entertainment

1942-1946 -- no plowing matches held because of wartime

1952 - Grounds were established for the permanent site of the plowing match

1953 -(August 20) permanent site dedication was held and was associated with the Cherokee County 4-H Fair

1954 - 3 large stock barns for 4-H livestock, a scale for weighing animals, light poles, fixtures, city water, gates and fences were added to the fairgrounds

1956 - First carnival featured

1956 - First permanent grandstand bleachers available

1972 -Pilot-Rock Plowing Match became the Cherokee County Fair



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