On Wednesday, Exhibition Hall was home to the Miss Grundy County Fair Queen Pageant.
Just a day later, it was home to a different kind of pageantry.
A wrestling ring replaced the brightly decorated stage, spandex replaced gowns and sashes, and grinding rock music replaced gentle strings as Blitz Pro Wrestling took the main stage at the Grundy County Fair.
It was the wrestling entertainment company’s first appearance at the Grundy County Fair.
Based in Joliet, Blitz is comprised of about 50 wrestlers and has been around for about six years, during which time it has attracted big name wrestlers and a great deal of enthusiasm from fans.
“It’s better than any pro wrestling in the Midwest,” said Robert Buonicore, part-owner of Blitz. “We’ve had a lot of big names come through and compliment us on how good we are.”
The scene at Exhibition Hall was predictably raucous, as attendees cheered and jeered the wrestlers, who wore their spandex nearly as creatively as they bashed each other around the ring.
“It’s an escape from realism,” Buonicore said. “They get to be good guys and bad guys, and it’s a lot of fun.”
The good guys entered the ring for each bout armed with high-fives and applause from the crowd, as well as, say, a plastic guitar.
The bad guys entered with wild boos and taunts from adults and children alike.
The announcer, who goes by the stage name Mr. Ricolo, revved up the crowd.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Mr. Ricolo said. “You have to experience it to believe what it feels like.”
He has long hair, a bushy white mustache, and a bowling shirt with the American flag on it.
Soft-spoken in conversation, Mr. Ricolo is a different person when he gets the microphone in his hands. He announces the names of the wrestlers in a booming, antagonistic voice, setting up the fight to come.
The main event was between a bizarre villain named Judas, who wore a leather kilt and a goat-like mask, and defending champion Mr. 450 -- the good guy.
Judas easily earned the disdain of the crowd, and one person vocally rooted for Mr. 450 to break the villain’s arm.
However, Judas had the better of the protagonist for the first part of the match, dropping him with all manner of kicks, slams and smacks.
Then, Judas got cocky and made an ill-advised attempt to jump from the ropes onto a supine Mr. 450. The champion moved, causing Judas to belly-flop onto the mat with a great thud.
Mr. 450 magically recovered from his injuries and, no longer ailing, found a second wind and went to work on his foe.
With the crowd behind him, Mr. 450 then defeated Judas using the very move that led to his opponent’s loss of momentum.
Judas’ appearance frightened at least one small child, but most in attendance seemed pleased with the show.
Caleb Boikin, a young wrestling fan who attended with his parents, said it was better than watching on television.
“It was so awesome,” said Boikin, still excited from the show. “It was awesome because I was able to see it in person.”