Suburban kids typically don’t see farm animals face-to-face.
Then comes County Fair time as teenaged 4-H members and others transport cows, goats, rabbits, roosters and other two and four-legged animals to be displayed and judged at fairs around the state.
That’s when livestock pens and small cages become destinations of choice as young visitors trade moos with cows, try a cock-a-doodle-do with roosters or pose for selfies with sheep.
Summer fairs trace their roots to agricultural exhibitions going back two centuries. And agriculture remains a central focus for more than 100 Illinois communities hosting events this summer.
“The core elements of those agricultural society events of the early 1800s—those early fairs—are at the heart of the agricultural fair in North America today,” according to the Springfield, Mo.-based International Association of Fairs and Expositions. “Competition for the best agricultural and domestic products of the county and/or community (or region or state), an annual celebrate for the community to come together, to share, to learn.”
But fairs also mean fun.
Along with showing and judging farm animals, suburban towns like St. Charles, Wheaton, Woodstock and Yorkville draw large crowds with the bright lights of carnival rides, games of skill and chance, demolition derbies, musical acts and gastronomical sights and smells.
That helps make county fairs a big business. A 2014 study found fairs have a $90 million impact in Illinois and helps generate 1,000 jobs.
Fairs also provided “contribute to the culture, unity and tradition of the communities they serve,” according to the study conducted by the University of Illinois Extension Service.
“County fairs provide many benefits to the community that are not related to economic gains, family friendly entertainment, education about agriculture, opportunities for local organizations to get involved, traditional community events, fundraising for local groups and unique entertainment opportunities,” the U of I report stated.
The region’s county fair season begins this week with the Kane County’s 148th event, running Wednesday through Sunday at the county fairgrounds on Randall Road. DuPage and Lake events are scheduled for July 27-31, McHenry follows from Aug. 3-7 and Kendall is scheduled for Aug. 4-7.
The Illinois State Fair runs from Aug. 11-21 in Springfield.
Fair season concludes after Labor Day with the Sandwich Fair in DeKalb County, the state’s oldest continuous event dating back to 1888.
There is no Cook County Fair. The last was held more than 60 years ago, including an 11-day extravaganza in 1948 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
KENDALL COUNTY FAIR
When: Aug. 4-7.
Where: 10826 Illinois Route 71, Yorkville.
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Aug 4; 8 a.m.-midnight, Aug. 5-6; 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Aug. 7.
Admission: Daily passes are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children. Four-day passes are $24 for adults, $16 for seniors and $12 for children. All-day carnival passes are $12 for adults, $16 for children ages 5-13 and $15 for seniors and separate from admission charges.
History: This version of the fair is only in its 24th year following a 1993 revival. But fair history can be traced back back as 1841. According to the Kendall County Fair Association, an Agricultural Fair was held in Oswego in 1854 and switched to Plano in 1856. The next year the fair moved the Yorkville-Bristol area where it ran until rising debts forced its demise in 1907.
Entertainment highlights: A carnival runs each day and live bands are scheduled nightly every evening on the family stage and in the beer garden. The 15th annual Western Speed Show is set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 4 at the grandstand. Aug. 5 events include the ISP Truck and Tractor Pull at 6 p.m. at the grandstand. On Aug. 6 there’s a Freestyle Madness show at 7 p.m. at the grandstand.
Also at the Fair: A Bags tourney is scheduled for Aug. 6 with cash prizes for top teams. A 24-team mud volleyball tournament is set for Aug. 7, which cash prizes. Don’t miss Sunday’s watermelon eating contest (11 a.m.) and Sweet Corn Showdown (noon).
More information: (630) 553-2860 or kendallcountyfair.org.
DUPAGE COUNTY FAIR
When: July 27-31.
Where: 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton.
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Admission: $10 single day adult gate admission, $4 single day child gate admission, $5 single day senior adult admission. Five-day season pass, $25. Family mega-ride passes range from $23 to $90 and include fair admission. Rodeo and demolition derby, $15 per session. See web site (dupagecountyfair.org) for details and to order tickets.
History: Now in its 62nd year, the fair is overseen by the DuPage County Fair Association, which was organized in 1954.
Entertainment highlights: Carnival opens at noon on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. on Thursday. Separate costs for rides with several unlimited ride options; Karaoke Night, July 27; “The Voice” contestant Michael Lynch, July 28; Sock Hop with the Neverly Brothers, July 28; Latting Rodeo, July 30, 1 and 6 p.m. grandstand area, separate $15 admission; Demolition Derby, July 31, 1 and 6 p.m., grandstand area, separate $15 admission.
Also at the fair: The Fair Association will collect change from visitors to help purchase goats for the people of Haiti for the fifth straight year. It will also conduct a Dream Big Food Drive, asking visitors to bring canned goods to support neighbors in need.
More information: (630) 668-6636 or visit www.dupagecountyfair.org.
LAKE COUNTY FAIR
When: July 27-31
Where: Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake.
Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. July 27-28; 10 a.m.-midnight, July 29-30; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., July 31. Free parking (all-day preferred parking $10).
Admission: $10 daily for adults, $5 for seniors and children ages 6-12, free for active military in uniform; family fair pass $25 daily (two adults, two children). Also, $35 season pass, $15 for seniors and children.
History: The first fair was hosted by the Lake County Agricultural Society in 1851 in Antioch. In the years since it has operated under a variety of names in townships throughout the county. In 1954 the Fair settled in Grayslake at the corner of Highways 45 and 120. In 2008, the Lake County Fair Association (LCFA) purchased the new Fairgrounds property in Grayslake and relocated to the corner of Peterson & Midlothian Roads.
Entertainment highlights: July 27: stadium Motocross, 6 p.m. grandstand. Svelte Bobby and the Soul Fixers, 5:30 p.m. and Rosehill Revival (Allman Brothers tribute band), 8:30 p.m. at Festival Square. July 28: Georgia Rae Family Band, 5:30 p.m. and Suburban Cowboys, 7:30 p.m., at Festival Square; July 29: Night of Destruction Demolition Events, 7 p.m. and Who’s Who (Who tribute band) 9 p.m., grandstand. Waukegan Band, 5 p.m., Rachel Lee, 7 p.m., Bella Cain, 8 p.m., Festival Square. July 30: Pro Rodeo Stampede, 2 and 7 p.m., grandstand; Smooth Operators, 3 p.m., Kashmir (Led Zeppelin tribune band), 6 p.m., Libido Funk Circus, 9 p.m., grandstand. July 31: Crash Fest Demolition Derby, 1 p.m., grandstand; Heather Moran Band, noon, Shining Star (Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band), 2:30 p.m., grandstand; Music Source Showcase, noon, front porch stage.
More information: (847) 680-7200 or visit lcfair.com.
McHENRY COUNTY FAIR
When: Aug. 3-7.
Where: 11900 Country Club Road, Woodstock.
Hours: Fair gates open at 7 a.m. Carnival rides open at 1 p.m. on Aug. 3-5, 10 a.m. on Aug. 6-7.
Admission: $25 season ticket; Single day admissions are $8 adults, $5 for seniors, veterans with ID and children ages 6-12.
History: The McHenry fair started in 1854 and closed in 1924. The McHenry County Fair Association reopened on their current property in May 1949 and have held events on the site ever since. This year’s theme is “Family Roots, Country Boots.”
Entertainment highlights: Aug. 3, McHenry County Queen Pageant, 6 p.m., grandstand. Aug. 4: Family Night Concert, $5, 7:30 p.m., grandstand, featuring Caroline Kole followed by The Willis Clan at 8:30 p.m.; Aug. 5: KTM Motocross, $5, grandstand and $10 pitt side, 6 p.m., Heaving playing in Entertainment Tent, 9 p.m. Aug. 6, Illini State Pullers, 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., $5 grandstand and $15 pit. Aug. 7, Demolition Derby, 1 and 5 p.m., $5, grandstand, $10 pit for ages 8-13 and $20 ages 14 and older. Fast Eddie and the Corvettes will perform in the food court Friday-Sunday.
More information: (815) 338-5315 or visit mchenrycountyfair.com.
When: Sept. 7-11
Where: 1401 Suydam Road, Sandwich.
Admission: $22 season pass, $9 general admission for adults and $6 for children ages 6-12.
History: Established in 1888 when a local livestock group purchased land and held the first fair. The Sandwich Fair marks its 129th event this season as Illinois’ oldest continuing event and is held amid towering oak trees, making for one of the prettiest fair sites in the state.
Entertainment highlights: Sept. 7, All-American Lumberjack show, 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 8, NTPA Sanctioned Truck Pulls, 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 9, CMA Country New artist of the year Frankie Ballard, 8 p.m.; Sept. 10, NTPA Sanctioned Tractor Pulls, 12:30 and 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 11, Demolition Derby, 1 and 3:30 p.m. All events in the grandstand.
Also at the fair: Visit the fair museum, housed in an 1892 former Secretary’s Office. Fair archives are featured on a rotating base, and each year a different area collector offers a display of their collection. Visitors can also pick up the latest Sandwich Fair collector’s pin on site.
More information: (815) 786-2159 or visit sandwichfair.com