GALENA, Ill. — The arts, the crafts, the fall foliage and the unmistakable scent of funnel cakes wafting through the air can only mean one thing.

The annual Galena Country Fair is set to take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-13 — this year marking a milestone with its 40th year.

Laying claim to the city’s busiest weekend and drawing thousands to Galena’s Grant Park, according to organizers, the event will boast arts, crafts and fine art vendors selling original handmade items.

According to Ed Bochniak, chairperson for the event, it’s an opportunity to have fun and simultaneously give back to the community.

“When it first got started, I think it had 10-12 booths,” he said. “Now, we have more than 150. Of those, more than 35 are new vendors. And we’ve been able to give more than $1 million back to Jo Daviess County.”

Also including a silent auction and raffle, since 2003 — when Jo Daviess County Fair Charities began managing the fair — proceeds have benefited emergency services, programs for youth and a host of nonprofit organizations.

Food also is a staple, including everything from chicken and pork chop sandwiches to brats, walking tacos, hand-cut French fries, caramel apples, homemade fudge, sundaes, a country bake shop and, of course, funnel cakes. Local craft beer and a gazebo wine garden also will be on site.

Nearby, live music will serve as a backdrop. And children can take part in games, face painting and more.

In addition to the many amenities, Bochniak believes the surroundings of Grant Park and the autumn colors have had a hand in attracting visitors to the event, year after year.

“Galena is a special place, but Grant Park is magical,” he said. “During the summer, it’s quiet, but when the fair takes place in the fall, the park just takes on a whole new life. It blossoms. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s something magical about the sense of being in a small town and escaping from reality through the fair. Sometimes you need that.”

Already looking ahead to its 50th year, organizers plan to ramp up social media efforts in the future, as well as look toward providing WiFi in the park, serving walkable food items and appealing to younger patrons.

“We need to keep the event current for the next generation,” he said. “But we also need to help develop their interest in things like craft shows. This is a great opportunity not only for our vendors to promote local handmade art that’s one-of-a-kind and that’s not mass-produced but to give back and to volunteer. All of it goes back to the community. This is a good way to do it.”

Due to the popularity of the event, shuttle services will run every 30 minutes Saturday and Sunday. Loading locations will be from Walmart, Galena High School and the Alice T. Virtue Swimming Pool, where free remote parking will be available. Drop-off locations will be at Green Street Plaza. Limited paid parking also will be an option in the City of Galena parking lot.

Here is what else you need to know, at a glance:

Event: Galena Country Fair

Time/date: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13.

Site: Grant Park, 625 Park Ave., Galena.

Cost: $2 suggested donation at the gate.

Online: galenacountryfair.com

Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 12

9 a.m.: River String Band.

10 a.m.: Gates open.

12:30 p.m.: McNulty School of Irish Dance.

1 p.m.: Sunshine.

5 p.m.: Gates close.

5:30 p.m.: Church service.

Sunday, Oct. 13

9 a.m.: Garrett Hillary.

10 a.m.: Gates open.

12:30 p.m.: McNulty School of Irish Dancers.

1 p.m.: Sunshine.

3:05 p.m.: Raffle drawing.

3:15 p.m.: Sunshine.

4 p.m.: Gates close.

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