CARTERVILLE — Carterville Free Fair started Wednesday evening with a free-for-all by the civic center outdoor stage in Cannon Park. What was the commotion? Dollars in the Straw. 

Carterville Lion Bob Brown split a bale of straw and hid a total of 50 $1 coins in the straw, 25 each for two age groups. 

“I love the Free Fair. I loved it as a kid and I love it even more now,” Carterville City Clerk Khrissy Hollister said.

The 105th Carterville Free Fair kicked off Wednesday with a farmers’ market and Dollars in the Straw. Free Fair runs through Saturday and is sponsored by Carterville Lion’s Club. The theme is: 105 years of Our Tradition: Harvest the Memories.

Some of the week’s highlights includes:

Little Mr. and Miss Carterville Free Fair and Miss Carterville Free Fair Scholarship Pageant and Talent Show will begin at 7 p.m. today in the Carterville Community Center.

Carterville Mayor Brad Robinson and the newly crowned Miss Carterville Free Fair will officially open the fair at 5 p.m. Friday with a ribbon cutting. Carterville Scouts will present the flag and the high school choir will sing. Carnival rides will be open from 6 to 10 p.m.

Friday night is also the 5K Twilight Glow Run and Poker Walk, which runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. A fun run for children 12 and younger will be at 6:30 p.m.in front of the Carterville Community Building. The run is sponsored by Carterville Chamber of Commerce.

“They added a poker walk this year. It’s the same concept as a poker run, but walkers get a poker hand. There’s also a fun run for the kids sponsored by Malone’s Daycare,” Hollister said.

Saturday morning is the parade. Units in the parade will begin lining up at 8:30 a.m. at Carterville Junior High School. At 10 a.m., the parade will proceed down Division Street through downtown to James Street Park.

Ed Smith, one of the event organizers, said the club decided to take some time from the end of the parade to the carnival opening at 4 p.m. for free events at Cannon Park. There will be eye screenings for children birth through age 6; Indent-A-Kid, finger printing and photo identification; free roller skating on a portable rink provided by Emery Brothers Roller Skating; healthy eating and snack making with Neighborhood Co-op Grocery; a free ping pong ball avalanche at 1 p.m. for children younger than 12; and pet show at 3 p.m.

Other activities both Friday and Saturday include: A big truck event near the ballpark will feature different trucks and emergency equipment; Bingo in the civic center with prizes from local merchants, raffle, carnival; Dollars in the Straw and live music.

Jackson Junction will play from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Friday on the civic center’s outdoor stage. On Saturday, U Foria will play from 8:30 to 11 p.m. on the outdoor stage.

“This year we are doing a lot of new things,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun and we make it open to everybody.”

One of the new events in Stride Pro Wrestling, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the community building. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 children.

A complete schedule is available on Carterville Lions Club’s Facebook page for the event, 2018 Free Fair: Harvest Memories.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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