Group asks whether county fairs really help community

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Researchers with the University of Illinois were conducting a statewide survey to determine how, or if, county fairs impact the community.

Researchers planned to visit 15 Illinois county fairs throughout the summer of 2014. At each fair, they were asking fair goers to complete a survey asking questions about the amount of time and money spent at the fair.

The researchers collected data at the Mercer County Fair on Friday, July 11, 2014.

Some of the questions on the survey included: how much do you anticipate spending at the fair and how many years have you attended the fair, said Cheryl Geitner, the 4-H youth development educator for Mercer, Henry, Rock Island and Stark Counties.

The study has received local assistance; 500 surveys were distributed by 10 local students who participate in 4-H. Geitner said because the students weren’t certified, they took an online webinar course on research methods.

Carrie McKillip, who is helping lead the study, said the research is about more than the economic impact.

“The dollars are just one part of the picture. What we are really looking for is, what does the presence of agriculture fairs mean to the communities and to the people that participate in them?” McKillip said.

Mercer County 4-H board members expected around 13,000 visitors at the 2014 county fair, nearly equaling Mercer County’s population of just more than 16,000.

The study, which will be reviewed by the University of Illinois, is expected to be completed in January of 2015.