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Champaign County Fair week begins

Gates opened at 7 a.m. Friday, and several area students were already busy grooming their horses and goats before their competitions start as the 173rd Champaign County Fair got underway Friday.

The fair is one of the most popular events in Champaign County, and thousands of people pack the fairgrounds each year.

Brittni Snyder, a junior from Terre Haute, has spent months training her horse Harley for the riding competitions today, Sunday and Monday. This is the first time she’s ridden the horse at the fair, so the main goal is to get an idea of the progress Harley has made, she said.

“This year I’m just using it to see how well she does,” Snyder said. “She’s not as good as some of my other horses but she’s come a long way.”

At the other end of the fairgrounds, Kathryn Hissong, a fifth-grader from West Liberty, was busy washing her goat Olaf. This is only her second year in 4-H, she said. She became involved in the organization because she likes working with animals, but has also made a lot of good friends at the fair, she said.

“I like the shows and I like the Hawaiian ice,” Hissong said. “I love looking at the animals.”

Vendors were also busy setting up early Friday.

LeAnn Harrigan, of Michael Farms in Urbana, is running a business called LeAnn’s Veggies for the second year at the fair. She sells sweet corn, garlic potatoes and other healthy meals and uses the money she makes to cover costs at Ohio State University. Harrigan is entering her senior year, where she is majoring in arts management.

Although its only her second year as a vendor, Harrigan said she’s attended the fair annually since she was a child.

“I’ve been coming here my whole life,” Harrigan said. “I’m too old to do 4H and FFA, so this gives me another reason to come out here.”

This is also the first year at the fair for Grant Kemmerer and his Wild World of Animals show. The free half-hour shows run at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday and feature unusual animals including wart hogs, a bearcat and exotic birds, among others.

The company is based in Pennsylvania, and offers educational shows that try to teach residents about the importance of wildlife, Kemmerer said.

Roger Eaton, of Urbana, stood outside the Wild World of Animals booth with his daughters Brooklyn and Kristen, who were watching the animals. The girls are students from Urbana and are working at concession stands all week.

The fair is an annual event for the family, Roger Eaton said.

“It’s such a big agricultural area and you get such a big turnout,” Roger said.

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