By Tony Hooker
For the 41st year, Ag Days is about to make the streets and parks of Villa Grove come alive. From Aug. 2-4, there will be activities and entertainment for kids of all ages. I recently caught up with Stacey Burnett, the Vice Chair of the event, to find out a bit more about what people who attend can expect.
How long have been involved with Ag Days?
This will be my fourth year.
What compelled you to step forward?
I had been going to the festival for a lot of years, maybe 10 years, and I had noticed how it had been declining a little bit. I went over to Bud’s (Auto) to ask about helping, and they gave us everything! <laughs> I think they were just ready to be done with it.
What was your role that first year?
I’ve kind of been the vice-chair or vice-president since the beginning.
What is your day to day like for those three days in August?
I mainly help organize the day to day and add some stuff on Facebook. I then get the vendors and help organize them, and I organize the bands and the “beer tent” area.
I have to be out there at 11 on Friday, even though the event doesn’t start until 5, it will take me at least from 12-4 to set all forty plus vendors up in their correct spots. I’ll be there until 9 when the carnival shuts down, and then I’ll be in the pavilion area where the bands are until 11. The bands are going to stop at 11 to give everyone a chance to wind down instead of it being so late, this year.
It looks like there are a lot of activities again this year. Are there any new or old events that you would like to highlight?
The adding of the fire department, doing an interactive obstacle course type event for the children is very exciting. I’m actually anticipating seeing this scholastic bowl game show. I’ve seen some photos, and they actually have a wheel. It’s an actual game show with contestants who will win prizes. The kids are always wondering who’s going to win the bicycle raffle. Friday is a bit slower time, but you’ll find out who will win the pageant on Friday, and we’ll also have the talent show at 7 p.m.
Let’s change gears and talk about you a little bit. Did you grow up in Villa Grove?
No, I grew up in Gifford. We have a festival there every year. The freedom celebration.
Did you help with that event?
No. I moved out when I was 19, so I really wasn’t doing any volunteering at that time! <smiles>
What are some of the things you would like to highlight on Saturday?
I always like to start off my Saturday at the VFW ladies’ auxiliary breakfast. There are a few vendors who only come on Saturday, so I have to leave space for them and bring them in early because things will get started at 9. Basketball registration starts at 8 a.m., we’ll have the national anthem and get it started.
The cheerleaders are doing the dunk tank again this year, and it’s going to be an all-day thing. I’m told there will be some celebrities in there, including Chief of Police Gire, and at some point, Mayor Gunter will be in there, too. The parade will kick off at 11, and that’s one of my favorite parts. The farmers get to show off their tractors and people get to show off their nice cars. We have the car show, which technically isn’t a part of Ag Days, but we like to promote them as much as they love to promote us.
There’s a sweet corn eating contest this year. Are you jumping in on that?
I’m not because I don’t want to look like a fool! <laughs> When I went to Gifford recently, my daughter and I did the watermelon eating contest and that was fun, and we wanted to add some fun stuff like that, this year. The FFA usually has corn to sell, and so we thought “Why not add this?” People will have to eat it off a paint roller, so that will be interesting. I’m really anticipating this BMX bike show. I’ve only seen it online, but lots of the kids have seen them at the school. From 4-7 there will be original artists playing before the evening acts. We’ve got Feudin’ Hillbillys on Friday night, and then one of the things that’s been added is Spectrum is going to be playing before Superbad on Saturday. I think the Ag Days Raffle is exciting. There will be two chances to win $500 in free groceries at Rick’s. It’s good for us, it’s good for Rick’s and it’s really good for whoever wins! <smiles>
Sunday’s line up is smaller this year?
Yes, we won’t be having the barbeque smoke-off or the mini-tractors this year. The Gunny Sack Review will be performing, and the Chamber will have pork burgers.
The Tractor’s were Larry Hall’s thing, right?
It was whoever’s thing. That’s one of the biggest problems that we face. There are just never enough volunteers or not enough people to run events.
Is there anything you would like to add?
The “beer tent” area, inside the main street plaza, is 21 only now, and there will be no drinking allowed in the street. This will make access to Ag Days easier as Main street will remain open. People will have open access to El Rancho Grande, the Scoop and JR’s, and without being fenced off, south Main will remain “family friendly.”
Are you still looking for volunteers?
We’re always looking for volunteers, but what we really need are more people to get involved at the beginning of the year to maybe bring more events or entertainment ideas. The kiddie tractor pull is always a big attraction. Sand volleyball is a new attraction, this year. We’ll have pony rides again, in the grassy area by the plane. The carnival will be in the street again, it won’t be moving back to the area by Monical’s. We need to focus as much attention as we can on the vendors, because if they don’t make any money, they won’t be coming back. Dragon Fire pizza will be on the south end of Main Street on Friday night, so that’s new. On Saturday night, Burrito King will be set up, so there will be food options during and after the bands.