Exploring Southern Illinois

The DuQuoin State Fair

Christina invited Kevin and me to go visit her grandfather’s farm one last time over Labor Day weekend. He passed away last month and the family is selling the property. She’s spent a lot of time there over the years, and it was a thing of interest to me for that reason among others, so I was glad to take her up on the offer. Kevin was easy-going about spending a good part of a three-day weekend on someone else’s plans, and it turns out we travel pretty well together.

We headed down in my car Saturday morning, just me and him, to meet up with Christina and Big, who had left for the farm the night before. We drove over five hours past miles upon miles of corn fields and truck stops, stopping only to get gas and lunch. We made it to the house by 1 and Christina took us to the local bar to meet the cast of characters that make up Benton, Illinois. Everyone in the place knew her when she came in, some affectionately calling her “Red” and others politely nodding. A torrential downpour occurred while we were there, and after waiting it out, we went back to the farm to get ready for the main event: the DuQuoin State Fair.

As it turns out, the state of Illinois hosts two state fairs: one in the capital, in Springfield, and the other at the bottom of the state in rural DuQuoin. Complete with a demolition derby, horse racing, and apparently a Friday night performance by Willie Nelson, the fair is kind of a big deal.

We ate corn dogs and deep fried desserts and took excessive photos of moldy prize-winning pies and hilarious tractor warning signs; we sampled Illinois wines and bought kettlecorn and wore comically trashy tank tops, or at least two of us did. And I finally got to ride a Ferris wheel with a guy, something I’d sheepishly always wanted to do, ever since the early days of wandering around the Noble County Fair with my friends back home. It was a good day.

On Sunday we all slept in and then headed to the next town over for your standard Midwest-style buffet of fried chicken and some of the best pork chops any of us have ever had. Before we left, Kevin and I walked around Christina’s grandfather’s property. It looked to me like somewhere I might have stumbled on near Caldwell, like visiting a friend’s house for the first time, maybe out on 339. It felt like a small piece of home, and I felt for Christina knowing it was almost certainly the last time she’d get this close to it all. She took it in stride, as is her way, and we drove away in two cars toward town.

Kevin and I got back to Chicago around 6, and he shot some footage of us coming up on the skyline from the passenger seat. This trip was the first time I’d had anyone in my car when I was driving through downtown, since I only ever do it when I’m en route to Ohio or back from it, so I was glad he got some nice shots at sunset.

We edited both these videos that night, something Kevin had never done before. It was so great to be able to share my love of video editing with him and we had a blast cutting the footage. He picked out both songs we used, which I think were excellent choices. I’ve been listening to the Antlers one from the fair video practically since we got back.

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