Marion County Fairgrounds

Salem, IL.


Current Officers:

President - Doug Telford

Vice-President - Mickey Crippen

Secretary / Treasurer - Kirk Wilkins

  Assistant Secretary - Terry Mulvany

  Update April 2, 2019

Marion County Ag Fair facebook Page



New for 2019 Season, Grandstand Walkway Ends enclosed



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    Updated 02/27/19




                  MARION COUNTY

               AGRICULTURE FAIR

  Saturday July 27 - Saturday August 3

Changes this year!  Moto Cross will start the fair on  Saturday July 27!


Thank you for your interest in the Marion County Agriculture Fair. The buttons on the top of each page and information on down this home page will direct you to specific areas about the fair and fairgrounds. Should you have any questions or are unable to find information you are looking for, please feel free to contact us at the fair office.  Phone number is   618-548-1251 , mailing address is P.O. Box 21, Salem, Illinois, 62881    


NEW!  Power Wheel Derby for the kids on Demo Derby Night!  More Info Soon!

The Marion County Fair Talent Show is coming back to the 2019 fair, will be held on the track stage in front of the grandstand Thursday August 1st. 5:30 P.M. along with the Jr. Miss Pageant at 7:30 P.M.  ONE Admittance Price $10.00 includes both events!!  Open Seating!

ATM On The Grounds During Major Events!

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 EXHIBIT BUILDING ENTRIES - Friday July 26, 2019  NOON-6:00 P.M.  Saturday July 27, 2019      9:00 A.M. - NOON

     Whippoorwill Rodeo! Wednesday July 31, 2019!


Little Egypt Shows Carnival ON THE MIDWAY!

Sunday July 28 - Saturday August 3

Arm Bands $20.00 or One Ticket $3.00  6:00 P.M. - 11:00 P.M.


Available During The 2019 Marion County Fair Ticket Sales!

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Returns to the Fairgrounds!  June 28, 2019!


Bits And Pieces Of Fair History

Before the 1850's, there were no railroads or good roads in the area.  Therefore, agriculture was not a means of making a living since there were no way to get produce to market.  People raised grain for their own animals and had home gardens for their own use.  When better roads and railroads came to Marion County, farming became a viable means of making a living.  The Ohio & Mississippi Railroad came in 1857, and the Illinois Central Railroad came soon after.  

On March 24, 1853, the Marion County Agricultural Society was founded and the first fair was held October 25 & 26, 1855.  The fairgrounds was near Bryan Park here in Salem.  A big tent was used that had been used earlier at the Illinois State Fair held in Chicago that year.  In 1858, the State Fair was held in Centralia and Central City.  The Siamese twins were a big attraction at that fair.  The fair also featured hot air balloon rides.  The balloon got loose with two small children in the basket.  It came down near Mt. Vernon, and the children were fine.

In 1857, the Marion County Agricultural Society purchased 12 acres for a fairgrounds (Tully Park).  The fair was held on those grounds until 1880 under the name of the Marion County Agricultural Society.  Accounts of the fairgrounds say that it compared well with any other fairgrounds in southern Illinois.  The amphitheatre could accommodate a thousand persons.  There was an excellent half-mile dirt track.  The fair was held each year until 1862 when it was cancelled because that troops of the 111th Illinois Volunteers were training on the fairgrounds.  It was cancelled in 1887 due to drought and cinch bugs destroying crops.  In 1896, it was cancelled because William Jennings Bryan was running for president.

In 1909, the Fair Association gave the fairgrounds (Tully Park) to the City of Salem to be used as a park.  After 1909 the fair was held in different places and known by different names-County Fair, Farmers Institute, and Farmers & Teachers Institute.  It was held in Centralia in 1915 and from 1918 to 1925 it was held in Alma at Allmon's Grove.  In 1926 is was in Patoka.  It returned to Tully Park in the mid-1930's.

In 1939, the fair was held in downtown Salem, just west of the Court House.  The garden produce and handmade articles were exhibited in the armory, which is now the Salem Moose Club. 

In 1940, the fair was held in Bryan Park with the garden produce and handmade articles exhibited in the new (at the time) armory on North College Street.

Businessman Bob Hancock and an interested group of people met and petitioned the Marion County Board for the establishment of a fairgrounds.  They sent 250 letters out to farmers, businessmen, 4-H leaders and FFA leaders to back the effort.  On March 13, 1940, the Marion County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase the old Salem Airport and 20 adjoining acres for a permanent home for the Marion County Fair, giving the fair approximately 65 acres.  

On April 14, 1941, these same farmers and businessmen met at the Marion County Court House and organized the Marion County Agricultural Fair Association.  The first officers were : President-E.E. Irwin, Vice President-J.V. Davis, Secretary-C. Glen Jones, Treasurer-O.A. James.  E.E. "Gene" Irwin was president of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs from 1934 until 1941.

The Fair Board leased the grounds from the County for a few years and then bought the fairgrounds in 1949.  The first fair on the present fairgrounds was August 19-23, 1941.  The estimated attendance was 20,000 and offered $7,000 in premiums.  By comparison, the attendance at the 2010 fair was 25,000 and premiums offered were $104,397.

Harness Racing was very big in the 1940's and 1950's and the Marion County Fair had one of the best 1/2 mile tracks in the state.  Several trainers, drivers, owners and horses that appeared here or raced here are in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.  The late Russell Rose, Salem's own, was inducted in 2005.  Some of the horses that raced at the Marion County Fair went on to race in big races, including the Hamiltonian. 

The fair has had it's ups and downs.  At one point in the 1960's, the fair board almost sold the fairgrounds to pay off the debt and dissolve the Fair Association.  However, 2 or 3 men came forward and saved the fair.  Two of those were Ray Vandeveer and Paul Hester.  Ray Vandeveer has two sons that are members of the fair today.  Ray Vandeveer, Jr. is the Beef Superintendent, Rolland Vandeveer is Supt. of Junior Livestock. Russell Vandeveer was the past Fair Secretary, held that position for a long period, he was also past Director-at-Large of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs.  Paul Hester's son, Dale, had served on the board for 44 years.

In 1980, the Marion County Fair Queen Pageant was started.  There have been 36 queens crowned with the 1987 Queen, Lori Vaughn, being Miss Illinois County Fair Queen.  Several of our queens have placed in the top 13 at  the State Convention in Springfield.

On April 19, 1996, the fairgrounds was hit by a tornado that destroyed much of the fairgrounds including the horse barns, exhibit building, grandstand roof, fair office and the electrical system.  The fair board went to work and was able to put the fairgrounds back together and opened the fair on time just a little over three months later.

In 2004, the first ever Kid's Day at the Fair was held.  Assistant Secretary, Bob Bruce and University of Illinois Extension 4-H Program Coordinator, Marilyn Thompson, collaborated on the educational event aimed towards area daycares and youth of all ages.   Kid's Day at the Fair is now a tradition for many families and is always a fun day at the fair with lots of hands-on learning experiences for youth to learn about agriculture.  Several agencies also came on board to assist with programming for the event.   Kid's Day at the Fair averages 500 youth,  in addition, there are many parents, grandparents, and caretakers that attend.   We love seeing all those smiles, no matter what the weather!

In the past years we have had some of the greatest acts in country music on our stage in front of the grandstand....some of the following have performed....Porte

The Fair Board Members over the years have been successful in producing a good entertaining fair for the people of Marion County to enjoy.  The present fair board is made up of 42 men and women dedicated to having a successful  fair each year.  The present officers are Doug Telford-President, Micky Crippen-Vice President,  Kirk Wilkins Secretary-Treasurer, Terry Mulvany - Assistant Secretary.

r Waggoner, Dolly Parton, Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, the Statler Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Leroy Van Dyke, Mickey Gilley, Eddie Rabbit, Doug Supernaw, Tracy Byrd, Michael Peterson, Mike Snider, Little Jimmy Dickens, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Merle Travis, and Drew Baldridge.  Also, the Royal Lipizzan Stallions have performed at the fairgrounds.

We think we have one of the nicest county fairgrounds in Illinois.  In addition to the annual fair, we host the Farm Safety Day, PKC Spring Nationals in April, Relay For Life and the Shrine Circus in June, the Antique Power Days in September, The PKC Super Stakes Coon Hunt in September, and the PKC Youth and World Coon Hunt in October.  The Marion County 4-H program also used the fairgrounds for various events, such as the 4-H/FFA Livestock Judging Contest, archery, which draws teams and individuals from throughout the U.S.

County Fairs are for education and promotion of agriculture, but many county fairs are no longer rural oriented.  In past years, most of the people attending the fair had some connection with the farm-grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins.  Today, a high percentage of fair attendees have no connection with farming or agriculture.  We are competing with TV, Computers, internet, movies, unlimited travel opportunities, sports, fast food and many activities that did not exist in the past.

The Marion County Fair has survived tornadoes, windstorms, rain-out nights, drought, extreme heat, floods, the depression and wars.  We hope that the fair will continue.  We ask that you to support and attend the Marion County Agriculture Fair in the coming years and attend and support other events being held at the fairgrounds.

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The Marion County Fair Exhibit Building can be rented for Wedding Receptions,       Family Reunions and Meetings....Contact the Fair Office at 618-548-1251





Salem's Overnight Accommodations:  Stay Over Night During Events At The Fairgrounds!

Badollet House Bed and Breakfast:  310 North Washington, Phone 618-548-3412

Quality Inn:   1800 West Main Street, Phone 618-548-2177

Continental Motel:   1600 East Main Street, Phone 618-548-3090

Days Inn:   1812 West Main Street, Phone 618-548-4212

Super 8 Motel:   118 Woods Lane, Phone 618-548-5882

Holiday Inn:  102 Holiday Lane, Phone 618-740-0913


While visiting the Marion County Fairground Events, Program your Cell Phones to Salem Nixle Alerts at or Text Zipcode 62881 to 888777 for sign-up.  Receive Local Emergency Messages including National Weather Service for Severe Weather Warnings.







Camper Pads Available - Daily or Weekly Rates,  Call the fair office at 548-1251 for availability.

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Illinois Department of Agriculture


Salem Department of Emergency Management


National Tractor Pullers Association 


Illinois Tractor Pullers Association (ITPA)


  Illinois State Fair



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