In its 92nd year, the DeKalb County Fall Fair has become known as “America’s Largest Family Reunion” and is one of the biggest street fairs in Indiana. Starting at the center of downtown Auburn, multiple city blocks are lined with food vendors, nightly entertainment, competitions, shows, carnival rides and more.
This year, the fair is Sept. 25-30 around the County Courthouse Square, 100 S. Main St., extending into city streets for several blocks, and including the DeKalb County Fairgrounds, 708 S. Union St. Admission to the fair and all entertainment is free.
Drawing vendors and hundreds of thousands of fairgoers from around the country, many people have made the annual event a family tradition, says Jeff Morr, entertainment chairperson. Morr remembers attending the fair as a child, performing in rock bands at the fair, becoming a 4-H leader and then a volunteer.
“I have never completely missed a fair,” he says. “I always found a way to get there, even if out of town. The fair is just something you grow up with. It has to happen every year and people love it.”
Dave Bunn, in charge of The Merchant’s Tent, says putting on the fair is a “massive feat” involving hundreds of volunteers and a fair board consisting of members, mostly having an average of 15-20 years of fair experience.
The Merchant Tent covers six city blocks, with more than 45,000 square feet under one roof. Upwards of 200 vendors sell products and services and promote businesses and organizations, with items varying from lawn and garden equipment, beauty products, apparel, health products, RVs, ATVs, advertising, promotional materials for civic organizations and more.
John Hoffman, one of the newest members on the board, is responsible for concessions, rides and games. This year, there are 93 food vendors, 70 games and 30 rides provided by Poor Jack Amusements of Milton, Ind.
Hoffman describes the fair as “very interactive,” with a board that “truly cares about the success of the fair and genuinely cares about their responsibilities.”
Vendors from across the country return each year. Hoffman personally interviews every vendor.
“As I do this, I learn more and more about these families, and it’s impressive to find out how they have contributed to the fair and for how long,” he says.
Pence’s Concessions of Bryan, Ohio, has nine booths. Their caramel corn, caramel apples, and cotton candy are hugely popular, Hoffman says. Award-winning Zebelles serves polish and Italian sausage, onion straws and foot-long corndogs. Eastern Star is one of the oldest food vendors and has been making donuts for more than 75 years. Today, they turn out 120 dozen donuts an hour with a staff of about 10 workers assigned to a specific station. The trailer is located on the corner of Seventh and Main.
“The donuts are made to order, are warm when you get them, and they melt in your mouth,” Hoffman says. “This definitely is one of our most popular attractions, with a continuous long line of people waiting to buy the donuts.”
Morr says the free entertainment is another big attraction, especially for those who couldn’t afford to go elsewhere to see top acts. Each year, Morr’s goals include getting a well-known country and rock band to perform, as well as a tribute band, and giving some of the area’s best local bands a chance to perform for a big crowd.
This year’s headliners include Quiet Riot, an American heavy metal band, and Confederate Railroad, an American country rock band.
The complete entertainment lineup this year includes the Miss DeKalb County Queen Pageant at 8 p.m. Monday; the High School Choir (featuring area junior high and high school choirs) at 7 p.m. Tuesday; Megan Mullins (originally from Indiana) and Side Piece and Frank Foster at 7 p.m. Wednesday; Paradise and Quiet Riot at 7 p.m. Thursday; Rekt and Confederate Railroad at 7 p.m. Friday; and JD3 and Credence Revived tribute band at 7 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, go to dekalbcountyfair.org.