Thousands flock to Sandwich Fair

By Jessica Kalin

Since 1888, the DeKalb County Fair in Sandwich has hosted a number of vendors, and this year was no exception. With a longstanding tradition of highlighting area merchants and craftsmen, this weekend’s fair also attracted those looking for good conversation.

Lyle Fritsch, a former seed corn distributor, has had a tent at the fair since 1938.

His tent, named Fritsch’s Oasis and Conversation Station, serves as a gathering place for anyone interested in talking.

“This is just so people could come and sit,” Fritsch said, sitting in a lawn chair with a friend as though he were on his own porch.

Originally meant to sell seed corn, Fritsch said the tent gradually became a place to see old friends and find family.

“If our kids got lost, they could come and find us,” he said.

Strangers are just as welcome at the Fritsch’s tent.

“It seems the farther away they come from, the more talkative they are. They are more inquisitive,” Fritsch said.

The Sandwich Fair saw 331 vendors set up on Sept. 8.

One such vendor was Ardus Blouw from Newark, whose tent was filled with wooden bird houses and yard signs.

“My husband cuts the wood and I paint it,” Blouw said.

Although she travels to different craft shows between March and December, Blouw looks forward to the Sandwich Fair.

“It is a good fair; it is an excellent show for us,” said Blouw, who has seen repeat customers in the seven years she has been involved.

Amanda and Wayne Newby, who own A & W Distributing in Hartsburg, sell handmade quilts and other needlework. It takes Amanda about two years to get ready for a show, as each quilt requires four months of work.

“Some people know the value [of the quilts] and some don’t,” she said. “I make this stuff in my living room. When I get a chance, I go to a [craft] show.”

The Sandwich Fair also holds a lot of history.

Superintendent of concessions and exhibits Don Bark said as of Friday, 82,746 people attended the fair.

As the superintendent for 28 years, Bark said that he has seen the fair grow each year.

“I like to see changes. You get different things in here. I think it helps the public to see something different,” Bark said.

The Sandwich Fair committee meets year-round to decide what that year’s logo will look like and what educational events they will have for children. This year’s logo featured a swine barn with a purple winning ribbon illustrating a pig.

Jackie Dannewitz, artist for the Sandwich Fair, said it is a group effort to make the fair a success.

“I couldn’t do it by myself,” Dannewitz said.

The committee’s gazebo has stood in the middle of the fair grounds for 11 years to help direct people and sell souvenirs. They have compiled a book of Sandwich Fair history, which is available to the public. For more information, call 786-2389.