A perfect fall day at the Elkhart Country Fair

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[October 12, 2015]  ELKHART - Saturday was a beautifully lazy day. The sun was out, the air was cool, but not cold, and the mood was good in the small community of Elkhart. It was the day of the Elkhart Country Fair. Downtown businesses were enjoying having added traffic in and out of their stores as folks casually mulled about town checking out the car show, participating in the dog show, taking a tour of the town’s historic buildings, and enjoying the lovely specialty shops and eateries in town.

Businesses were open throughout town from the Little Foxes and Wild Hare, and Country Bumpkin, all the way down to Richardson’s Repair, and Birdsong. Business owners were taking the opportunity to visit with those walking through their doors, and also make sure that at least some of them left with a little something in their shopping bags.

There is also a new business in town, one unlike anything else in the community, or for the most part in the entire county. Mark Moughan has opened the Route 66 Model Raceway. The raceway engages 1:24 scale model stock cars with the option of racing on a drag-track or a very large tri-oval track reminiscent of Daytona. Moughan said that the Raceway will hold an official grand opening within the next month or so, but he wanted to be open on Saturday to give visitors a taste of what will be offered.

Inside the large building located on the north side of the main street, the large track takes up most of the space, but with plenty of standing room around it for those who would choose to participate in a race. On the walls are plenty of photos depicting Moughan’s family’s involvement in auto racing over the years.

Moughan said that he’s getting the business open at a good point in time, because fall and winter are when race fans enjoy coming inside and trying their hand at miniature racing. He said this winter he would have some official race nights where folks will be able to compete against one another. He also noted that there is a similar business in Mason City, and the two businesses will coordinate so that they are not competing for attendance on race night.

In addition to the track, Moughan also has a large selection of parts for the slot cars and said there are those hobbyists who enjoy making and racing their own cars. For those who aren’t interested in building a slot model, he also has a good selection of ready-to-race cars on display for sale.

In addition to shopping opportunities, the street was lined with a nice selection of cars being shown on Saturday. The Elkhart Fire Department also brought their fire truck and engine to the car show. Down the street across from City Hall, there was an antique tractor show going on, as well as a small engine show.

And, everyone knows that dogs enjoy chasing cars. So doesn’t it just make good sense that in the midst of the car show, there was a dog show of sorts? Area pet owners brought their pooches, dressed in costume for the doggie costume parade and judging.

Each pet was registered in front of the Birdsong. Then at parade time, they were trotted one (sometimes two or three) at a time, the length of the street from Birdsong to Little Foxes and back. In the end, the judges selected winners for first, second and third place. Each winner received a nice gift.

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At 11:30 a.m., and then again at 2:30 p.m., the tour wagon was loaded up with visitors anxious to see the historic buildings in Elkhart. The morning ride was a full load as everyone rushed to grab a seat for the show.

In addition to the activities downtown, the St. John Baptist Chapel at the Elkhart Cemetery was open for guided tours starting at noon.

The chapel was built in 1890 as a memorial to Elkhart native John D. Gillette. The little chapel features large stained glass windows, and the names of many of the Gillette family engraved on the walls. The hardwood ceiling is open to the roof in a Cathedral style. One interesting point about the chapel is that it was built of Culver Stone, the same material used to build the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield. Also inside the building is the original pipe organ. When the chapel was built, the organ stood at the front of the building. But some years ago, it was taken to the back of the chapel so that it could be modified to operate on electricity.

In town, a live band came in and performed on the street in the afternoon.

Throughout the day, there were plenty of food opportunities as the Talk of the Town was open for dining in along with the Wild Hare Café. In addition, the Wild Hare was set up to serve brats just outside the front door of the Little Foxes on the street. Several took advantage of the brats, topped with a variety of fixing’s including sauerkraut. They were then able to stay outside in the cool sunny climate, some taking a seat at one of the several benches around town and just enjoying a beautiful fall day in Elkhart.

Note: A special “Thank-you” to LDN reader Matt Fights, who submitted some really great shots from the air on Saturday afternoon.

[Nila Smith]

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