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East Perry fair like a homecoming, organizers say
ALTENBURG, Mo. -- The annual East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg means more to organizers and attendees than just funnel cakes, corn dogs and jumping-mule shows.
Fair board member Mike Engert said he believes the fair is more like a homecoming for many who attend.
"People who used to live in the area come back just for this," Engert said Saturday. "It's a once-a-year opportunity to come home."
Bob Wichern, who grew up in Altenburg, said he can't imagine what a year would be like without the fair.
"To be able to come back home and visit with people I've known all of my life is wonderful," he said. "I work and live in Perryville, but this is home for me."
This year's edition, held Friday and Saturday, was expected to draw 25,000 to 30,000 people to the East Perry fairgrounds. Fair board president Greg Krauss said he was glad for the cooperation of Mother Nature.
"The weather has just been great," he said. "It gives people all the more reason to come on out."
Both Krauss and Engert said part of the fair's charm lies in its setting in a town of 309. Its schools and government offices were closed Friday so students and employees can attend.
"This is a place where everybody knows everybody," Engert said. "The fair is big part of the area's spirit. There's no charge for parking and there's no admission fee. You can come here and see someone you know and enjoy a relaxing evening."
The spirit of the Altenburg area was also seen in the event competitions that took place Saturday. For one competitor in the horse show, it wasn't about being apprehensive as to whether or not she would place.
"I just want to do my best and enjoy time with my horse Peanut," said Allison Pfaff, 11, of Perryville, Mo. "I'm not nervous about winning anything."
Brent Versemann, 26, of Triple V Farms in Perryville, entered registered Angus cows in the cow judging contest. "I've been showing cows for 18 years. Of course, I'd like for my cows to place in the top part of their class, but if they don't, it's not the end of the world."
In addition to the fair's horse and cow judging, there is the always-popular mule jumping contest that involves mules attempting to jump over a stick set at certain heights. Also popular is the four-wheel-drive truck pull that draws an even bigger audience. But, according to Krauss, it's the people who make the fair work and not so much its events.
"There's good people in the area who are always ready to step in," he said. "They always get the job done when it's time for the fair, whether it's in a labor sense or financial."
Engert said there's always work year-round to prepare for the fair, but it's fun.
"It takes all week to get everything just right, but I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing," he said. "Our parents did it, and now we do. It's the way of the community."