As the Lake County Fair midway began to fill with eager early arrivals on opening day Wednesday, a small group gathered off to the side to reflect on what had come before.
Near the temporary main entrance, on a browning patch of grass between the eagles and bears of Zoli's Woodcarving and an Adopt a Spot pocket garden, a modest ceremony was held to bury some memories.
The Lake County Fair has been held in various forms and locations since the mid-1800s. But officials marking the 85th installment of the event, as held under the auspices of the Lake County Fair Association, put out the call for memorabilia to fill a time capsule to be opened during the centennial in 2028.
The idea of this first-time exercise was to engage the community while preserving the fair's agricultural heritage and horticultural roots, fair officials said.
Through social media and cold calling, a variety of old fair pins, blue ribbons, pictures, a fair history book, brochure, animal stickers and other items -- about 40 in all -- were corralled for preservation in a 22-inch-tall, 5-inch-wide metal cylinder.
Among the donors were Ann Petersen of Wauconda, who brought a 75th anniversary fair book, and Gail Gloede of Grayslake, who donated an exhibitor's ticket from 1966. Together they have logged 118 years in various capacities with the fair and donated many of the items for the time capsule.
"Who knew we'd be here so many years later, right, Annie?'" said Gloede, who this year is the superintendent of ceramics.
Her family has been involved with the annual festivities since 1957, about the time it began a 50-plus-year run at the previous fairgrounds at routes 45 and 120 in Grayslake. Among her donations were 17 fair pins.
"We've won over 1,800 ribbons," Gloede said.
Petersen works with the ribbons and trophies, but has "done everything for the fair" during her 62-year involvement. She donated the fair history book and three trophy plates.
About 20 people gathered for the ceremony, and after some brief remarks, fair board President Kelli Kepler-Yarc dropped the cylinder in a snug-fitting hole. It was covered with several inches of dirt and marked with an orange construction cone until the permanent marker is installed.
"I think it will be amazing in 15 years to open it up and see all these items," said Angela Panateri, marketing and events coordinator.
The fair moved to its home on Peterson Road at Midlothian Road in 2009 and has had to overcome upheaval on the governing board, a failed real estate market that scotched the sale of valuable adjoining property, outstanding loans, bad weather and competition from other activities.
Attendance dipped each year until 2012 when the 91,548 visitors represented a 2.8 percent increase. For the first time at its new home, there is more tweaking than scrambling.
"It's still a work in progress much like the old fairgrounds was. We just keep adding on," said Pete Tekampe, treasurer and a longtime fair board member, who entered his first tractor pull in 1960.
The agricultural roots still have allure.
Michelle Greenfield was among the first to arrive Wednesday with her friend Julie Klingler, both of Lindenhurst, and seven kids aged 2 to 11.
"Animals. They love the animals," Greenfield said.