As a quartet from Marmion Academy sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the opening of the 150th annual Kane County Fair Thursday, Norm Skala rose from his wheelchair and saluted the flag.
The 95-year-old Army veteran, who rode horses while in a cavalry unit in India during World War II, is the oldest and longest-serving member of the Kane County Fair board.
He’s been on so long he doesn’t remember exactly how long — he joined “right after God,” Skala joked.
“I would not miss it,” he said of the fair.
The entire fair opened to the public Thursday afternoon. The carnival midway opened Wednesday, and 4-H exhibitors have been on the grounds since Sunday.
State, county and local politicians, plus former Chicago Bear Emery Moorehead, cut the ribbon at the beer-garden stage.
Skala, of what is now Campton Hills, grew up in Kane County as a horse-crazy kid. After the war, he worked on ranches out West until his father died. Skala moved back home to help his family.
“There weren’t many openings for cowboys around here, so I started shoeing (horses),” he said. He also trained horses, and for years he judged the equestrian events at the fair. “I think when God made me, he gave me a shot of horse,” Skala said.
In the barns
In the beef barn, a 1,345-pound Hereford steer named Eeyore stood contented. Maybe because he had a fan blowing directly on his hind quarters, keeping him cool and fly-free.
Why the name? “Because all he does is lay down all the time. He’s lazy,” said owner Emily Thompson, 17, of St. Charles. Thompson, who belongs to the Prairie Clovers 4-H Club, will be a senior at St. Charles North High School in the fall.
4-H clubs’ members are also showing cows, heifers, poultry, swine, rabbits and sheep.
Some will post photos from the fair, with a special SnapChat filter, on Friday.
The fair continues through Sunday night. Gates open at noon. On Friday and Saturday nights, professional bull-riders will perform in the Grandstand Arena. There’s a demolition derby Sunday.
For admission, midway and entertainment prices, visit kanecountyfair.com.