LOGANSPORT — Joyce Bower has lived and breathed 4-H fairs every summer since she joined 4-H at about 9 years old.
Crowned Miss Cass County in 1976, Bower went on to be part of the 4-H Queen Contest committee as an adult. She took a break from the committee for the last five to seven years while her daughters participated in the pageant, but this year, she’s returned to head up the decorating.
Bower, a teacher at Thompson Elementary, spent three to four hours a day for two weeks after school ended painting a plywood backdrop to resemble New Orleans’ French Quarter for tonight’s Mardi Gras-themed Queen Contest. The backdrop went up last week at the pageant stage in the fairgrounds’ exhibition building, along with green, purple and black tulle, matching Mardi Gras masks and plenty of faux greenery.
Tonight’s queen contest kicks off the 2012 Cass County 4-H Fair at 7 p.m. This will be the county fair’s 52nd year at the current location.
The pageant is the first of several events taking place each evening this week at the fair. The one that’s likely to draw the biggest crowd will happen at 8 p.m. Thursday when country musician Justin Moore will perform before at least 2,300 fans gathered in the fair’s tractor pull arena.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a paid concert out here at all,” said Mark Musall, the president of the fair board.
About 2,300 tickets had been sold online as of Friday afternoon at $22 a pop. Tickets will also be available at the fair.
The fair board decided to hold the concert to raise funds for the fair.
Other alternatives were to institute parking or admission fees, which the board did not want to do.
“That’s one thing we really pride ourselves on,” Musall said. “We’re a free fair, with free parking and free admission.”
He thinks people are pleased to have Moore come perform, too.
“In my estimation he’s one of the biggest talents to come to Logansport” for some time, he said.
For the Thursday concert, the arena will hold up to 3,500 fans, Musall said. The biggest challenge of the night will be getting everyone a parking space.
County Road 125 North will be closed in front of the fairgrounds starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday evening to allow pedestrians safe crossing from the hayfield where they will be directed to park.
Shuttles will be running each night between the parking area and the fairgrounds, as has been the case for the last couple of years, according to Cass County 4-H Extension educator Lynn Korniak.
More than 20 food vendors and 15 to 20 rides will fill the fairgrounds midway.
All the fair’s regular not-for-profit food vendors have returned, according to Kory Wilson, fair board member in charge of outside concessions. That includes the Grange, the Pioneer Band Boosters, the Caston Cheerleaders, the Lewis Cass Band Boosters and the Logansport Band Boosters, among others.
A new vendor will sell frozen bananas, chocolate-covered strawberries and cheesecake on a stick, Wilson said. Others will serve up the fair’s usual fare, including elephant ears, hot dogs and tacos.
The carnival rides fill the midway to capacity, according to Musall.
They open Sunday evening and are essentially the same as have been set up at previous county fairs.
Other familiar events have been moved around, though. The annual 4-H awards program will be held on Friday night this year instead of Thursday so as not to conflict with the headline concert. The Feud of the Fairgrounds will take place at 3 p.m. Friday instead of Friday night Livestock will be released on Friday, the same day as still projects, instead of Thursday last year. That should be more convenient for 4-H’ers since they will be able to collect all their projects at once, said Korniak.
All that’s left now, Musall said, is to hope for good weather.
“I think the weather is really going to cooperate this year,” he said, “which will be a breath of fresh air, that’s for sure. If you have nice weather, people want to come out in the evening, have supper out here and have their kids ride the rides.”
• Sarah Einselen is a staff reporter for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.