On Saturday, September 6th, I made it to next to last day of the Sandwich Fair. No, it’s not an ode to the joys of bread-bookended meats and cheeses, it’s a step into another world (at least for this ex-city girl). Running for five days straight right around Labor Day, the Sandwich Fair is the pride and joy of Sandwich, Illinois, which stretches out over DeKalb, Kendall, and LaSalle Counties. Sandwich is about a half hour drive south of my starting point, DeKalb. Admission was $9.00, and parking was free.
Unlike other temporary fairs that shoehorn booths and rides into otherwise occupied space, shutting down village streets and redirecting traffic, the Sandwich Fair is a permanent fixture on the landscape. It’s been running strong since 1888 when the Sandwich Fair Association purchased the land where it sits. (Click here for a map of the grounds).
My friends and I were hungry on arrival and quickly made our way to the pulled pork sandwiches and sugary lemon shake-ups. Thus sated, we meandered around the livestock pens. (Pro tip: Though the animals on display are champs, they’re still animals – watch your step and plan ahead with shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, though they had portable toilets to accommodate the crowds, I was pleasantly surprised that they not only had real bathrooms, but bathroom attendants).
It was a lovely end of summer day petting fuzzy animals, checking out a steel drum band, a pig raffle, a baking competition (all the goodies were just for show behind glass, though), and a photography exhibit. I felt like we barely scratched the surface of everything the fair had to offer. Saturday’s big attraction was the NTPA sanctioned tractor pull. Early in the day, my bones rattled at the wall of sound that was the 12:30 show, but I was unable to talk my crew into staying for the 6:30 show at the end of the long, hot day. It also required extra admission cost – $10 for the grandstand seats and $20 for reserved and “hot seats.” Maybe next year. For more information on the tractor pulls, see the official Sandwich Fair website or check out a sneak peek on YouTube. There were carnival rides and bands as well, with the day before featuring country star Easton Corbin.
Lunch was reasonably priced ($3.00 pulled pork sandwiches? Yes, please). We were quite pleasantly surprised that parking was free. The parking lot was a breeze getting in, with plenty of attendants gesturing guests into neat rows. It was quite an ordeal getting out, though. Everyone was forced to exit in one direction, with people from rows ahead of you constantly braiding into the exit traffic. We were stuck there a good 40 minutes. Forewarned is forearmed: Fill up the gas tank, pack some drinks, snacks, and music. Focus on the gentle, fuzzy lamb you made friends with mere hours ago.
We capped off the day in Sandwich at Gene’s (125 S. Main Street), where I was introduced to the glory of the beef roll, which I’m told is a LaSalle County specialty. It’s like that old Chicago standby, the roast beef sandwich, but instead of a drippy (but delicious) mess of a sandwich roll, it’s wrapped in a freshly made pita, and eaten with a fork and knife. When I say “pita,” don’t think of those sad little grocery store wedges for scooping up hummus. Freshly made pita is a hot, bubbly, pillowy blanket of perfection. In addition to beef, several sandwiches get the roll treatment; other options include turkey, gyro, and even a vegetarian lover’s roll. I may have to investigate this roll phenomenon in future entries.