Vinland Fair returns this coming week with 3 days of old-fashioned entertainment

photo by: John Henry

Three children vie to see who can shell the most corn in a farm skills contest at a past Vinland Fair. The fair that offers a variety of homespun entertainment returns for 2021 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday after being canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Talent shows, farm skills contests, outdoor games and other old-fashioned fun will return to rural Douglas County this coming week as the Vinland Fair bounces back from last year’s pandemic-induced cancellation.

Julie Craig, who chairs the Vinland Fair Board along with her husband, Mike, said the fair will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the fairgrounds in the hamlet of Vinland about 8 miles south of Lawrence on Douglas County Road 1055, which is known as Haskell Avenue in Lawrence. Craig said she’s heard from plenty of regular fair attendees who are eager for the event to return, and she’s anticipating a good crowd.

“We’re getting messages sent to us daily asking, ‘Are you still on?'” she said.

The fair, which was founded in 1907 by members of the Vinland Grange, prides itself on staying true to its roots. Unlike many other fairs at this time of year, the Vinland Fair features no carnival attractions or commercial booths, but instead invites those in attendance to entertain themselves with a variety of contests, races and games.

Many visitors with Vinland Valley roots return regularly for the fair, Craig said. That includes her children and grandchildren, who visit each year for fair week.

The pandemic has necessitated a few changes to the fair, Craig said, but she said people who have attended in the past won’t notice many major differences in the fair’s schedule.

“We’re trying to keep everything as normal as possible and have all our usual big events,” she said. “We’ll still have bands playing every night.”

Masks will not be mandatory, because most of the fair’s events are outside, Craig said. But those serving food at the fairgrounds’ concession stands will be wearing masks to protect the food, she said, and the menu will be more limited. Among the items cut from the menu is the traditional chicken noodle dinner, which is normally prepared through a community effort in advance of the fair.

“It just takes so many roasters, and we need an assembly line to serve it,” she said. “We’re not retiring it forever.” She added that “there will still be lots of homemade pies.”

In another pandemic-related change, the fair board decided not to print a fair book this year because it didn’t want to have to repay advertisers if a fresh COVID-19 wave forced the fair to be canceled again, Craig said. However, all the information usually available in the fair book — exhibit and tractor pull entry rules, food menus and a schedule of events — can be found at vinlandfair.com.

The fair’s schedule kicks off Thursday with an all-day scarecrow building contest, an old-time farm skills competition at 2 p.m., and the annual talent show at 6 p.m. In the past, the talent show has featured such acts as a psychic chicken, a contortionist, musicians and aerial acrobats.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” Craig said.

Friday opens with children’s stock bicycle races at 10 a.m., followed by more children’s competitions such as foot races, sack races and the tug of war. There will be a lawnmower pull starting at 7 p.m., and live music and food will be available at the fairgrounds.

Saturday’s events start with the children’s pet parade and box turtle race; registration is at 10 a.m. and the parade begins at 11 a.m. The antique tractor pull starts at 1 p.m. on the competition track, and the children’s pedal tractor pull will be at 2 p.m. near the stage on the main fairgrounds. There will be a homemade ice cream contest at 7 p.m., and guests can sample the ice cream at 7:30 p.m. when the evening’s live music starts.

“The homemade ice cream contest is not to be missed,” Craig said.

Throughout the three days, entries in the fair’s 4-H exhibits and open exhibits for quilts and aprons can be viewed in the exhibition barn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information and the full schedule of events, go to vinlandfair.com.

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