Sandwich fairgoers identify favorite attractions and ‘hidden gems’ in online survey

Sandwich Fair attendees identified their favorite fair attractions, including several that many first-time fairgoers may overlook, in a recent Shaw Local News Network online survey.

The fair has been an annual event since 1888, making it one of the oldest in the state of Illinois. This year, the 134th edition of the fair will run from Wednesday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 11, at 15730 Pratt Road in Sandwich.

In the survey, fairgoers were asked to identify what they consider the fair’s “can’t miss” attractions and “hidden gems.”

The fair attraction atop fairgoers’ lists of underrated attractions was the Ag Land stage. Many fairgoers reported the free music and entertainment offered at the stage was their “hidden gem” at the fair.

Of all the fair attractions reported, perhaps none is as unique as the Mouse Game.

Several fairgoers said the Mouse Game was their favorite attraction or a “can’t miss” event, but they reported the booth for the attraction can be easily overlooked if you’ve never seen it before.

In a four-sided booth, fairgoers gather around each side to play the Mouse Game. A large, flat wheel with numbered holes around the edge spins in the center of the booth like a roulette wheel. A live mouse is released on the spinning wheel and runs to one of the holes and drops into a box identical to the one it was released from.

Fairgoers can wager a quarter on a set of numbers, and if the mouse runs into a hole with their number, they win a stuffed animal prize.

Karen Richmond, a member of the Sandwich Early Day Engine Club who has been going to the fair for more than 20 years, said she never misses trying her luck on the Mouse Game.

“It will sometimes be wall-to-wall people trying to get in and bet their quarters on a little mouse,” Richmond said.

Brandie Fanning has been going to the fair for more than a decade and said her kids save their quarters all year for the Mouse Game.

“It’s kind of a confusing thing if you’ve never seen it for yourself,” Fanning said. “I’ve never seen anything like it outside the Sandwich Fair.”

Fanning said the mouse game is her family’s favorite, and one of the best things about the game is that it only costs a quarter, so they can play for a long time and not spend a fortune.

Fanning said she appreciates that the booth for the game is family-owned. She said the game has been at the fair for as long as she can remember, and the owners always remember her family.

Also frequently mentioned among the overlooked attractions in the survey is the breakfast offered by St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church of Sandwich.

Mary Hodson, 72, said she has been attending the fair since she was a baby. She now lives in Champagne, but she will be coming to Sandwich just for this year’s fair.

Hodson said St. Paul’s has been at the same spot on the fairgrounds for 60 years, serving eggs to order, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and more all day long. She said the recipes haven’t changed for as long as she can remember.

Hodson said St. Paul’s set up at the grounds on the Sunday before the fair starts, serving the public and fair employees breakfast all week long.

Hours of the fair will be from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

For general information on the fair, including times, pricing, events and promotions, see the Sandwich Fair Preview.