Champaign County Fair to feature music, food, fun for everyone

Kona+Ice+employee+taking+orders+for+a+delicious+treat+from+fair+attendees+at+the+Champaign+County+Fair.+Co-owner+of+Kona+Ice+Wes+Hanner+shares+his+excitement+for+the+Champaign+County+Fair+this+year+from+July+22-July+30+and+for+Kone+Ice+to+be+attending+again+in-which+the+snow+cone+truck+has+been+a+vendor+for+7+years+at+the+fair+serving+a+wide+variety+of+snow+cones+for+everyone+to+enjoy.+

Photo courtesy of Wes Hanner

Kona Ice employee taking orders for a delicious treat from fair attendees at the Champaign County Fair. Co-owner of Kona Ice Wes Hanner shares his excitement for the Champaign County Fair this year from July 22-July 30 and for Kone Ice to be attending again in-which the snow cone truck has been a vendor for 7 years at the fair serving a wide variety of snow cones for everyone to enjoy.

By Kylie Corral, Summer Managing Editor for Reporting

The Champaign County Fair will officially kick off on Friday, July 22, featuring everything from concerts to food vendors to carnival rides. The nine-day fair will end next Saturday, July 30. 

Bill Alagna, the vice president of the fair’s board of directors, said that the event has been celebrated for over a century — surviving world wars and pandemics. It has endured a lot but still stands strong.

“So last year, we got to reopen, and that was wonderful because we had record attendance and the grounds were full, and two or three times we ran out of parking, which is a wonderful problem to have,” Alagna said.

Alagna said he likes to see city people who’ve never attended a county fair before or have never seen livestock up close before. 

“They can get up close and personal, see how they’re taken care of and how they’re handled,” Alagna said. “It’s an experience they don’t get in other places.” 

Alagna said he wants the fair to become a generational tradition within Champaign County, which begins when children attend the fair. 

“If we can find things to grow on kids, then they ask their mom and dad to bring them back to the fair,” Alagna said. “Then when they’re adults, they bring their kids. That’s building on the future.”

To Alagna, the most rewarding aspect of the fair is the joy it brings each year to those who visit.

“The one thing that I’d add is if you come to the fair,  you won’t be disappointed,” Alagna said.

Ashley Cooke, country singer and songwriter who will perform alongside Cole Swindell and Michael Ray Friday night, said she’s been writing songs and singing since she was 11 years old. She said that it was after college when she decided to focus on music full-time.

Cooke said that she was surrounded by the world of entertainment at a young age because her sister was into acting, which is what made her fall in love with music and songwriting.

“I really kind of started writing songs because I would take journal entries from when I was a kid and just like sing them around the house, and lyric writing and storytelling was a huge part of what inspired me to listen to music like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean, and that kind of storyteller country lyrics,” she said. “So I really fell in love with that aspect of it, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Cooke said she launched her career with the help of TikTok and other social media platforms during the pandemic. She said these platforms allowed her to grow a fan base and express herself with music.

For aspiring singers and songwriters, Cooke said everyone starts somewhere and that voice can be found through writing. She added that social media is a good tool to get started as a musician.

“That’s my biggest piece of advice to any new artists,” she said. “Any new creative person that has any kind of art to offer the world, use what is given to you, use the mediums like social media to help spread the word that you’re creating something cool.”

For the Champaign County Fair, Cooke said she’s most excited about the funnel cake after getting one during the last fair she performed at a couple of weeks ago.

“I love fairs, and I’ve played shows at fairs since I was a kid, and it’s just something about every fair and kind of feels like you’re just going home,” she said.

Cooke said the best part of performing is hearing the audience sing lyrics back to her. She said that it surprises her every time at her shows.

“That’s just the most rewarding feeling ever, knowing that people listen and they care and they’re there and they’re really connected and you know, want your music,” she said. “They want to know what you’re doing, so it’s exciting.”

At the fair, Cooke will be at the merch table after the concert to take pictures and say hi to fans. 

“If you’re 21 and older, get a beer and have a good time,” Cooke said.

Wes Hanner, a co-owner of Kona Ice, a mobile shaved ice food truck that serves all of Champaign County and some of Vermillion County, said he got the idea to create this business from an article in Entrepreneur Magazine.

He said that when the business began, there were just two other shaved ice trucks in the whole state of Illinois. He has now been a vendor at the Champaign County Fair for seven years.

“It’s always a great time to get out there,” Hanner said. “A lot of times, we’ll see a lot of our regular customers, but then we’ll get to see a lot of new people, a lot of new faces. The fairs, it’s always just a good time.”

For him, he is most excited about the fried Oreos that will be sold at the fair. He said it’s also a lot of fun to see the county fair in his hometown.

“It’s just a great atmosphere to interact and … let people see our full menu,” he said. “We offer all our flavors, so people can try everything.”

He said Kone Ice offers a wide variety of flavors, such as crafted flavors like nonalcoholic mocktails and blueberry açai, which are popular flavors among customers.

Hanner said he thinks there is something for everybody at this weekend’s county fair.

“If you haven’t been, I would say at least come out there and check it out,” Hanner said.

 

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