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Last ride for Mercer County Fair President after 36 years in Aledo

ALEDO, Illinois -- At one of the oldest county fairs in Illinois, one of the longest runs of leadership is ending.

"We've only had two presidents in the last 52 years," said Roger Grundstrom, on Wednesday, July 11.

Turns out, the Grundstrom Gator is the presidential motorcade at the Mercer County Fair, which runs through Saturday, July 14.

"I want the fairgrounds to look like a park as much as we can," he said.

It's a familiar sight around the fair in Aledo. But after serving as fair president since 1982, he's ready to ride off.

Roger is quick to credit others for the fair's longevity and success.

"It wasn't me," he said.  "It's our board. It's our community."

Still, Roger presided during rocky times for fairs - state funding challenges, changing tastes and dwindling crowds. But like a Harold Hill, he was able to drum up a community revival.

"My whole theory behind working for the fair has always been for the kids," he said.

On a hot Wednesday, youngsters are showing off calves in a livestock barn.

That kind of family fun inspired the Grundstrom era.

"We'll miss him a lot," said Mike Peterson, youth livestock president.  "He puts in a lot of his own time.  He's just been a real good contributor to the Mercer County Fair."

What gratifies Grundstrom these days is seeing the next generation stepping up. His grandson, C.J., just 6 years old, is already showing hogs.

"He's still not quite old enough for 4-H, but you can see he can still drive his pig," he said.

By offering lessons about care and respect for animals, a father-daughter dairy team nearby help to keep it going.

When Illinois slowed funding, the community was quick to respond.

"I don't care if it's a $100 sponsor or a $1,000 sponsor," he continued.  "It's all important."

Grundstrom plans to lend a hand in coming years, so there's still a few rides left in that presidential Gator.

"You have to know when to say when," he concluded.  "It's the right time for me."