C’ville kids get farm lesson at fair
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News July 21, 2012 11:32AM
Alex Aguilar and Aaron Benjamin, both 6, of the Dundee Township Boys & Girls Club express their excitement while riding on a carnival ride Friday at the Kane County Fair in St. Charles. The EFS Foundation funded the group of kids from the club to go to the fair to enjoy the day. July 20, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:46AM
ST. CHARLES — Ayamail “Mya” Islas has been around farm animals before. Her dad worked a ranch in Mexico, and she’s been around horses, goats and chickens in her short life.
But the 10-year-old, a Lakewood Elementary student in Carpentersville, knows that many of her friends from the Dundee Township Boys & Girls Club may not be used to seeing cows, sheep, goats and other animals up close and personal — as they did Friday at the Kane County Fair.
Thirty-four students from first through fourth grades got to hang out at their county fair — checking out the 4-H animal barns, eating hot dogs and corn dogs, and riding on the midway.
Pat Szpekowski, hired last year to the fair’s marketing, hopes that taking the trip from Carpentersville to St. Charles creates similar memories for the youngsters — similar to those she developed as a young girl.
Szpekowski remembers traveling from her home in Chicago to East Dundee’s Santa’s Village when the amusement park opened in 1959.
That memory was so strong for her, Szpekowski said, that she ended up moving to the Dundee area 25 years later.
As a member of the Dundee Township Rotary Club, Szpekowski worked with members there to secure an EFS Foundation grant to bring the mostly Carpentersville area kids to the fair.
First on the day’s agenda was bringing the students through the animal barns.
Islas said she thought it was funny how some of her friends reacted to the animals. “I know that animals are not like humans. They don’t have anywhere they have to go to use the bathroom. They pee and poop,” Islas said.
There was a time, said Fair Board President Larry Breon, that even kids who lived in the city had an aunt, uncle, cousin or other relative who lived on a farm. It wasn’t unusual for those kids to go visit the farm, or spend a week there in the summer.
“There are people now who have never been on a farm,” Breon said. “They have not seen livestock and don’t know that milk doesn’t come from the Jewel (grocery store). It comes from a cow.”
Although most of the Boys & Girls Club children have probably been to a festival or carnival in their lifetimes, it is animals and livestock that make the fair different, Breon said.
And by bringing urban kids to the fair now, they are more likely to bring their own children to the fair in the future, he added. “It is like Wrigley Field. You have to keep bringing a new batch of kids every year, so they want to bring their kids in the future, too.”