Root Beer, Llamas, and Wine: A Fair September Day

The first Saturday in September was a bit warm and humid, but still a pretty nice day at the Du Quoin State Fair. I spent quite a bit of time in the Exhibit Hall looking at the different entries from all over Southern Illinois–produce, quilts, artwork, photography, cakes, and pies.

I spent even more time checking out all of the yummy things made in Southern Illinois and enjoyed meeting and talking with so many of the people and their products. Did you know that there is a Wabash Valley Wine Trail? Road Trip!

The Southern Illinois Beekeeping Association was on site with local honey and products made with it, such as Big Muddy Root Beer.

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch had a demonstration going as well as some of their fleece products. The little pumpkins were adorable…

Devil’s Breath Chile Company had some wonderful samples. They of course make some hot products, but the beef I sampled was a milder option with quite a nice balance of flavor.

Reinneck Ranch Inc. of Mascoutah also had samples and some wonderful products on hand.

There was fresh produce on site, and even the guys from Crown Brew were available to serve decadent coffee concoctions.

The BBQ Popcorn that Uncle Joe’s from Ina has started making was very tasty.

Aunt Jenny’s Fudge had samples. I tried the chocolate praline. O.M.Y! (Oh. My. Yum!)

Louie’s Seasonings, as in those used at the historic Louie’s P & R in Herrin, were available as well as Kuntry Kettle apple butters.

Excel Bottling from Breeze, responsible for the regional favorite Ski, provided samples of soft drinks.

Stanley’s Italian Style Beef Seasoning from Harrisburg had samples of Italian beef. Mr. Stanley was kind enough to pose for the camera.

There was so much delicous-smelling fair food to choose from when it was time to eat. I chose a local food truck with a cause that hit close to home. A bit of online research revealed that Fight Like a Girl was created by Du Quoin’s Marcy Robinson and her husband Les in memory of her sister, Kristina Stacey.

The ribbon fries with cheese were awesome!

I walked through the midway, but after recently spending months fighting nausea during chemo, I passed on any rides. While my kids and their friends enjoyed the midway action, I took a LOT of photos. Imagine that…

The ever-popular “Free Bird” was observed in its natural habitat. Ok, perhaps it wasn’t the original band singing the song, but this band was pretty darn good. The guy singing had a great voice.

After many decades, people still gather at this iconic structure to eat and perhaps rest a bit at the tables. As I’m still trying to rebuild my energy from this past year, I rested often. I was thankful for every bench and picnic table at the fairgrounds!

Livestock and dairy shows are still part of the fair’s backbone. I was sad that I missed the dairy goat show (this girl showed dairy goats for 11 years in 4-H. Tonti Broken Arrow Carpris, my family’s farmette as a kid, was a proud member of the Southern Illinois Dairy Goat Association…) but did see some cows. Horses also make up an important part of the fair. Unfortunately, I did not make it to see the stables this year.

Above: The grandstand in the background of the children’s area. I empathized with all parents pushing double strollers and wagons as I remembered the days when Mija and Mijo were energetic toddlers… At least it wasn’t muddy. That always added to the resistance workout.

Below: The midway as photographed from its North end. It seems the kids have now graduated to this side of the food vendor area.

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Flooding, Concerts, and Costa Rican Coffee?

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All of the recent flooding has brought a couple of concerts to mind. The second time (out of five?) that I saw Bon Jovi was during The Great Flood of ’93.

They were playing at the Riverport Amphitheater (forgive me, but I’ve quit keeping track of the frequent name changes of that place. ) There was so much flooding in the southwest part of Illinois. For some reason, I thought the only way to get to St. Louis from Carbondale at that point in life was to head through Murphysboro and over to Route 3. One of the roads was closed due to flooding, and I was completely distraught. Seeing Bon Jovi was pretty much the one thing I had been looking forward to for several weeks.

So, the three of us, a girl from Costa Rica, a guy from Pakistan, and a somewhat directionally-challenged Southern Illinois girl, finally made our way via the interstate. The concert was of course, great. (How could Jon Bon Jovi not be great, right?) We made it home to Carbondale very early the next morning via Festus, Missouri. (I don’t know why we went through Festus –I was trying to sleep.)

Fast forward to sometime in the summer of 1998 when my cousins, my BFF, and I headed to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds to see Leann Rhines and Bryan White. Bryan put on a great show, but the storm had started moving in quickly. LeAnn had to postpone for safety reasons.

We made a mad dash for my cousin’s car in the pouring rain. As we struggled to see our way out of the congested fairgrounds parking lot in the downpour, we kept smelling coffee. That was odd considering that none of us had any, nor was there any stowed in the car. We finally figured out that the combination of summer heat and rain had actually started steaming my necklace of Costa Rican coffee beans from a recent trip… That was a first for me. Scented fashion accessories. Not all age-inappropriate…

However, the evening’s adventure did not end in DuQuoin. We headed east then south down Route 148 and took some side roads in Herrin where we thought there might be better visibility without so many headlights glaring and that type of thing. Uh, bad choice. Apparently, Herrin had a flash flooding issue.

We seemed to be cruising down the street just fine, and then, suddenly, we were floating like a boat. Water started coming into the car by our feet. I remember calling a cellular rescue service that I’d apparently just thrown money at for several months because it was no help. The lady who answered kept putting me on hold. I remember saying “Ma’am, we can’t hold. We are in a car with water rising up to our knees…”

Fortunately, the other girls managed to get the window to where we could climb out of the car, still filling with water. It just happened that we were near a crisis shelter. The folks at the shelter were kind enough to let us get out of the storm and find a tow truck. Eventually, four very tired girls climbed into the tow truck with one poor tow truck driver to end the night. I had been to all those “dangerous” rock and concerts with no mishaps, but I went to one country music concert and nearly drowned. Nothing like this ever happened when I drove myself over to see Ozzy’ s “Retirement Sucks” concert…

Although we made it out of the flash flood ok, the car did not fare as well and was determined to be a total loss. When we went back to the area the next day, and the water had disappeared, we could see that it wasn’t even a very big dip in the road. At night, it wasn’t noticeable, and in a downpour, it became dangerous.

So, if you get nothing else out of my little trip down memory lane, please take flash flooding warnings seriously. What may not look like much water can total a car in a matter of minutes. Stay safe-and dry. Remember that actual coffee beans will steam if the conditions are right…