It’s county fair time across Northern Illinois

By Cathy Janek for Chronicle Media

Carnivals are a mainstay of county fairs.

It’s time again for carnivals, cotton candy, cows and crowds.

In other words, county fair season is about to kick  off in northern Illinois.

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “the American county fair developed in the early nineteenth century when agriculture reformers in the northeastern United States organized local exhibitions to promote modern farming. Typical events included livestock judging, exhibits of new agricultural implements and techniques, and plowing contests.”

Agriculture remains a focus of many current fairs, but they’ve also added carnivals and games, musical entertainment, demolition derbies and other forms of entertainment.

There is no Cook County Fair, but fairs in surrounding Chicago suburbs and counties extending far beyond urban region continue to thrive.

Here’s a guide to celebrations near and far:

Kane County Fair

July 20 to 23

525 South Randall Road, St. Charles.

Grounds Hours: Thursday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

Free entertainment every day of the fair includes Bengal Tiger Show,  Jack Axe Mini Obstacle Course, Balster’s Sheer Magic Show, Racing Pigs, 4-H Animals & Competitions, All Star Sports Instruction, MindWorks/Wild Science Interactive Games, Rockin’ Live Music & Mariachi Band.

Grandstand Stage: Thursday, 7 p.m. Jack Axe Face Off Obstacle Course Race, Free. Professional championship bull riding and barrel racing. Admission charge $14. Sunday’s grandstand will feature an afternoon and evening at Smash Em Bash Em Demolition Derby” at  2 p.m. and 7 p.m. “$10.00.

Admission: Wednesday, Pre-fair free admission. Unlimited rides from 3 p.m., to close, $20, Thursday, $5, seniors and military personnel free until 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday, adults $10, children 3 to 12 $5, children under 3 free, season ticket $20.

More information available at or   630-584-6926.

DuPage County Fair

July 26 to 30

2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton.

Grounds Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

This year’s fair theme, Making Memories, includes several community projects such as donations to purchase goats for the Haitian Foundation Give-A-Goat program.  In its third year, six goats have been donated.   Canned goods will be collected to benefit local food pantries.  Free admission is provided for two canned goods before 9 a.m. on July 31 and pop tops from beverage cans are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Winfield.

Daily activities include a car show, carnival rides, NASCAR race simulator,  camel rides for $5, blacksmithing, Hit n’ Miss Engines, Embryology (chicks hatching), pony rides $5, sheep shearing, corn box play area, antique tractors, small engines, wood carvers, pedal tractors, petting zoo, corn shelling, rope making, bee exhibit, and milk a “life-like” cow.

Other activities include a watermelon eating contest, robotics demonstrations, a talent contest, and a bags tournament.

Grandstand:  Wednesday Karaoke Night, Free, Friday,  7:00 p.m. Brady Toops, 8:30 Rachel Platten $20 includes ticket and admission to the fair. Saturday, Rodeo 4:00 p.m. $15.00, 8:45 p.m. David Nail $20 includes ticket and admission to fair. Sunday, Demo Derby, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. $15.

Admission: Adults $10, seniors and children between 3 and 12 $4, children two years old and younger and military personnel with ID are free.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, seniors ages 62 and older are free until 3 p.m.

More Information: or 630-668-6636.

Lake County Fair

July 26 to July 30

1060 East Peterson Road, Grayslake.

Grounds Hours:  Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From quilts to cattle, pickles to pageants, and sheep to shoe boxes, there is a category for every age and talent to compete in the 89th Annual Lake County Fair .  On Wednesday, the Miss Lake County Fair will be crowned and on Thursday, the Little Miss and Junior Miss Pageants will be held.  Battle of the bands will be held on Saturday, and two talent competitions will take place on Sunday.

Daily free events include carnival rides, Ham Bone Express Pig Racing, Livestock Lane, Dairy Goat Milking Competition, 4-H demonstrations, and Beer Tent Bingo.

Grandstand: Wednesday, Eve of Destruction- Power Wheels Racing, Hot Wheels Racing, Lawn Mower Racing, Figure 8 School Bus Racing, Figure 8 Truck Racing, Figure 8 Car Racing.  Free with general admission. Thursday,  Dirt Track Racing.  Free with general admission.  On Friday, American country duo, LoCash (vocalists Chris Lucas and Preston Brust) headlines the Friday night grandstand stage.  On Saturday, Pro Rodeo Stampede.  Free with general admission at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.  On Sunday, July 30 at 1 p.m, Crashfest Demolition Derby.  Free with general admission.

Admission:    Adults $10, seniors age 65 and older and children six to 12 $5, children five and under and active military in uniform free. Active military, veterans, and families with valid military ID (not available online) $5.  Family Fair Pack (2 adult and 2 child tickets) $25.

Parking:  Free on the grass lot.  Preferred parking, a paved lot located by the Main Gate, is available for $10 per day. Cash Only.

More information available or 847-680-7200

Tractor pulls featured at the Kendall County fair

Kendall County Fair

Aug. 3 – Aug. 6

10826 Illinois Route 71, Yorkville

Grounds Hours:   Thursday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. , Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Carnival Hours: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission: Mega Pass is $45.00 PRE-FAIR, $50.00 AT THE GATE,
Must purchase passes at the fairgrounds during posted hours, see website for office hours.

McHenry County Fair

Aug. 1 to Aug. 6

11900 Country Club Road, Woodstock.

Grounds Hours:  Tuesday, 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday 7 a.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Expanded to a six day event this year, the McHenry County Fair has been an annual summer tradition since 1949.  This year’s fair “Carving Out Our Future” will include  4-H, Open, and Junior Open livestock and non-livestock shows, educational displays revolving around conservation and agriculture, food vendors, and carnival rides.

Free entertainment includes comedian and juggler Andy Martello, a cappella 50’s and 60’s group, Blend, KidBuck$ Game Show, Chainsaw Sculpture.  Contests include Mother Daughter Look-A-Like, Hog Call, and Watermelon Eating.

Grandstand events:   Tuesday, 6 p.m. McHenry County Queen Pageant – Free, Wednesday, 6 p.m. Tractor Salute to Veterans, Team Roping 7 p.m. – Free, Thursday, 7 p.m. KTM Motocross Racing, $5 Friday, Concert Night At The Fair,  6:45 p.m. Georgia Rae Family Band and 8 p.m. Sawyer Brown Concert.  Grandstand $15, Trackside $20, Saturday at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.  $15 Grandstands/$20 Infield/Track.  Illini State Pullers Truck ‘n Tractor Pull, 5 Grandstand, $15 Pit Pass, Sunday at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.   Demolition Derby at 1 p.m. and 5:30. $5 Grandstands $10 Pit Pass (ages 8 to 13) $20 Pit Pass (14 and Older).

Admission:  Adult $8, seniors, veterans, and children $5, children 5 and under free, season pass $25.

More information: or (815)338-5315.
Boone County Fair

Aug. 8 to Aug. 13.

8791 Illinois Route 76, Belvidere.

The 60th annual Boone County Fair includes six days of carnival rides, 4-H fair with alpacas for the first time and non-livestock categories in textiles and culinary skill categories. The Boone County Fair also features a queen’s pageant and a father/son and mother/daughter look alike contests.   Other contests include watermelon eating, seed spitting, bubblegum blowing, Twinkie eating, and soda drinking contests.  Free daily musical entertainment is also part of the fair.

Grandstand: Tuesday Queen Pageant 7:30 p.m. Free. Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Multi-Event Truck Pull with Shootout Challenge 6:30 p.m. $ 7.00 Grandstand $ 5.00 Bleacher. Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Truck, Tractor & Semi Pulls; Friday 7 p.m. Next Level Pro-Bull Riding $10.00 Grandstand $ 6.00 Bleachers Saturday, 8 p.m. country singer Scotty McCreery Grandstand $25 Bleachers $15, Sunday, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.  Demolition Derby $10 Grandstand $ 6 Bleachers.

Admission: Tuesday $5, Wednesday to Sunday $6, advance sale season tickets $18, season tickets at the gate $20.

More information available at

Winnebago County Fair

Aug. 16 to 20

500 West First St., Pecatonica.

Grounds Hours:  Tuesday 4 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to midnight, Sunday 10 a.m. to close.

The 96th Annual Winnebago County Fair includes carnival rides, a petting zoo, livestock shows, entertainment, tractor displays, and food vendors.

Free entertainment includes musical acts The Sensations on Wednesday, and Two Trick Rodeo on Thursday.   Other highlights include the Queen and Little Miss Pageant on Wednesday, the Winnebago High School Robotics on Thursday at 3:30, Winnebago County Square Dancers on Friday, at 4:30 p.m.

Free 4-H events include Family Fun Night on Wednesday at 7 p.m., Fashion Review, Friday at 6 p.m., Fur and Feather Sale on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Livestock Auction on Saturday, at 1 p.m.

Grandstand:  Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. Ranch Sorting $5, Wednesday 7 p.m. High Stakes Rodeo & Local Barrel Racing $10, Thursday 6:30 Illini State Pullers Truck Pull $5, Friday Farmer’s Class Tractor Pull at 1 p.m. $5, Pit Pass $25, Badger State Tractor Pull at 6:30 p.m. $5, Pit Pass $25, Saturday, 7 p.m. Mo Pitney $10, Sunday 2 p.m. Demo Derby $7, $25 pit pass.

Admission:  Visit the fair on Tuesday or Wednesday and receive free gate admission by donating two non-perishable food items that will support the Rockford Rescue Mission. Wednesday $3, Thursday $5 seniors 60 and older free, Friday $5 children 12 and under free, Friday and Saturday $7, Sunday $5.

More information: or 815-239-1641.

Livestock showings by 4-H members are the heart of many county fairs in Illinois.

Will County Fair

Aug. 23 to 27

710 S West St, Peotone.

Grounds Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight.

Admission:  Adults $4, children under 10 free. Thursday, seniors and veterans $2,

The 114th annual Will County Fair will include carnival rides, 4-H events, food vendors, sock hop, and a baby show for babies between 6 and 36 months. Free daily music entertainment includes The All Star Music Machine nightly in the beer garden and Buford Bear and his Miniature Truck daily.

Grandstand Events: Thursday, 9 a.m. Antique Tractor Pull 6:30 Tractor and Truck Pull $8, pit pass $10, Friday, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, 7 p.m.  Demolition Derby, Sunday 2:00 p.m.  Rodeo $8.00.

More Information: or (708) 258-9359.


DeKalb County

Sandwich Fair

Sept. 6 to 10

1401 Suydam Road, Sandwich.

The 130th Sandwich Fair, conducted on an 85-acre site, will include 4-H events, culinary competition,  carnival rides and daily entertainment including Buttons the Clown, Banjo Buddies Dixieland Trio, Dan Barth Entertainment, Carrie McQueen-Stilt Walking and Juggling, FFA Farm Zoo, Antique Farm Machinery, Arts and Crafts Demonstration, Exhibits, Rides, Displays, Food, Indian Valley Theatre-Melodrama’s, Balster Magic Productions, Inc., Maggie the Milking Cow, Rob Thompson’s Pure Magic, Chris Vallillo Original and Traditional Acoustic Roots Music, The Spoon Man, Lumberjack Enterprises, and Rob the Robert.

Special events:  Wednesday, 11 a.m. Harness Racing, free; Thursday 6:30 p.m. Tractor Pulls $20 reserved, $5 Child seat. Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Demolition Derby, $15 adult, $5 Child.

Mainstage Musical Events:  Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Woody James, free with gate admission, Friday, 8 p.m. Old Dominion, $25 or $35 stage pit area.

Admission:  Adult $9, Child 6 to 12 $6, Child 5 and under free, Season pass $22 adult and $8 child. Wednesday, children 12 and under free, Thursday, senior citizens $6 until 5 p.m., Friday, Military with ID free until 5 p.m.

More information:




— It’s county fair time across Northern Illinois —