Monday, August 07, 2017

More Than Kankakee County Fair, Lamancha Goats, Odd-Ball Bunnies and a Crab Cake BLT at the Longbranch in L'Erable, Illinois

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"The goal that I aimed at in breeding American La Manchas was a breed that was able to produce 3½ to six quarts of fine-flavored milk with 3.5% or more butterfat over a period of one to four years between freshenings. They should have the w-way wedge body, strong legs well-placed, udders well-attached, both front and back, good barrel, short sleek hair, any color or combination of colors, horned or hornless, and head the size of Toggenburgs." Mrs. Eula Fay Frey American Breeder 1958. 

Pretty fair day at the Kankakee County Fair. The lightest of rains and the happiest of Americans celebrating the talents and the industry of future farmers, homemakers and patriots.

I love County Fairs.  They are generally free of political nonsense and all of the manure is produced by Beef and Dairy Cattle, swine, rabbits, fowls, shoe horses and the patter of the Carnies.

Kankakee County Fair is one of the best there is and so after 8:30 Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Morgan Park, the elegant Miss Sullivan and I motored south on 57 to Illinois Route 17 west for a breakfast at the legendary Blue's Cafes, where the prettiest woman and the homeliest men dine on real food. Image result for blue's cafe kankakee il

Then a trip down Wall Street and east to Route 52 South and Fair Grounds.

I parked at the very heel of the east lot, knowing that by mid afternoon the grounds would be jammed with cars, SUVS, Hill Billy Cadillacs and Customized Classics.  A $ 20 fee admits one and all for a daily visit, but you can purchase a $ 25 full term admission and opening day was only a Buck ($1).

The Fair Grounds is operated by a Board of Volunteers and offers use of the 87 acre facility not only for the Annual Kankakee County Fair, but also for weddings, concerts and races.   The grounds and its mission to promote American agriculture are on target.

This jaded urbanite learned to love the life rustic, when I taught at Bishop McNamra High School from 1975-1988.  Kankakee is the center of Illinois French Heritage and all of the surrounding townships south through Iroquois County reflect that influence.  Towns like Beaverville, Papineau, Martinon, St. Anne, St. George and Bourbonnais are steeped in French Canadian culture, dating back to the 1840's, when Pastor Chiniquy, the Pastor Michael Pfleger of his times, lured thousands of French Canadians to Illinois. Charles Chiniquy is only American Catholic heretic and schismatic, so far.  Most of the people remained faithful to the Catholic Church and a few families formed the Chiniquy Presbyterians, until the Presbyterians kicked them out.

I married a girl of French ancestry - Mary Cleary. Her Mom's family were from St. George and spoke French in the home; they were Duvals and Fortins.

The French farmed the best soil in Illinois and the Kankakee County Fair reflects that.

Upon entry to he fair grounds, the sponsors ( Case, John Deere, Mahindra, Oliver and tractors, discs and rakes) greeted the crowd. We would watch these brands compete in the Tractor Pull.

Then on to the livestock sheds!

Now, I have been to over thirty County Fairs, five Kentucky Derbies and eight hog call contests, but I have never seen anything like this weird looking son of a bitch. This blue ribbon winner from 7th grader Ms. Buente of Bonfield 4-H takes the prize with me too.

Not to be out done for strange the Lamancha goat was the next eye-brow raising exhibit.  Miss Sullivan lingered among the feathered contestants cockadoodle-doing up a cacophony only matched by Lalapalooza.  "They're birds for Crissakes."  Nasty, smelly foul tempered birds.  I hung with the swine.
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Then lured Miss Sullivan to the goat pens and Lamancha goats. I learned about the Lamnacha goats from the Grand Prize Winner ( who asked to be nameless here) from Chebanse, "These are dairy goats and have been bred so.  Spanish goats from LaMancha produced great, high fat milk and they had remarkably short ears - gopher ers. But this is an American breed going back to 1958.  The ideal is to breed the shortest to non-existent ears."

I had always assumed that the ears had been cropped - I learned something yesterday.

The Sheep, the beef cattle and visiting African Leopard all took a backseat to the looming Tractor Pull.  The leopard was part of a Wild Animal menagerie for the little guys, but I loved watching the big cat nail chicken thighs.
That gal could eat!

Now, the tractor pull - To the uninitiated this sport appears rather odd.  To the initiated it is, but really fun, noisy and captivating. Here are the basics: "All tractors in their respective classes pull a set weight in the sled. When a tractor gets to the end of the 100 metre track, this is known as a "full pull". When more than one tractor completes the course, more weight is added to the sled, and those competitors that moved past 300 feet will compete in a pull-off; the winner is the one who can pull the sled the farthest."

Here is last year's event!    

This is yesterday's pull

This John Deere entry failed badly - barely hitting 200 feet.   I sent to purchase "the smallest scoop of strawberry ice cream in a Belgian waffle cone and a very small cup of water."  Dutifully, I succeeded in the former and failed miserably at the later.  The girls from Georgetown, Illinois looked at me like I had never eaten a funnel cake, when I asked for the water.  As if!!!!

It was time to stretch our legs and enjoy the wonders of the midway. Being a veteran Dad, I delighted in not going to any of the many ATM machines strategically positioned all along the midway rides and gaming booths.Image result for Kankakee County Fair

Having spent the equivalent of a year's tuition at St. Ignatius College Prep, over the years of fatherhooding three wonderful children on carnival rides, duck ponds and darts, I declined the offers to give it a try and watched scores of Happy Pappies dig out the debit cards.

Our day was done at the Fair!  Now, it was time to dine À la manière de nos ancêtres français.  We were off to L'Erable and the fabled Longbranch Saloon.

L'Erable, Illinois is south of Kankakee in Iroquois County east of Clifton at the County Road junctions of 2400 S and 1500 E. Ashkum Township and is identified by St. John The Baptist Catholic Church and the Longbranch.
  It is in unincorporated

The Longbranch has always been a great place for food and drink, but 3rd Generation owners: Nick & Lindsay Bohn have brought more pizazz to the menu with Cajun Shrimp & Andouille Pasta, Steak Parmesan and Prime Rib done to perfection.

The bar is welcoming and if you don't care for IPA you ordered on friend's recommendation, a chilled bottle of whatever else you like is uncapped and poured in a cold glass with so much as a raised eyebrow.

I had the CrabCake BLT - Image result for longbranchlerable. Crabcake BLT Miss Sullivan Longbranch Burger Image result for longbranch lerable burgerWe took restorative stroll to the Church and its War Memorial before heading north to Chicago.

Miss Sullivan dozed contentedly as I rode the speed limit through the soybeans and tall corn to 111th Street.  I dozed not all but delighted in a more than fair day.

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