It’s County Fair time

Jack McCarthy
The prizes are enticing, but it takes some skill and patience to win any of the rewards at this Kane County Fair Midway vendor during a recent County Fair. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

The prizes are enticing, but it takes some skill and patience to win any of the rewards at this Kane County Fair Midway vendor during a recent County Fair. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

Rural and urban counties maintain a tradition that dates back two centuries.

Most 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 as more than 100 Illinois communities host 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 is now underway and the state’s big one — 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.

The state’s most populous county — Cook — has no fair. The last was held more than 60 years ago, including an 11-day extravaganza in 1948 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.


The signs are oversized and sometimes the food offerings are too at county fairs throughout the state. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

The signs are oversized and sometimes the food offerings are too at county fairs throughout the state. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)


When: Aug. 16-21

Where: Winnebago County Fairgrounds, 500 West First St., Pecatonica.

Hours:  10 a.m. to midnight except Aug. 16 when grounds open at 4 p.m.

Admission: $3 adult admission on Aug. 16; $5 on Aug. 17-18 and 21; $7 on Aug. 19-20; season pass $15. A $25 daily Mega Pass features admission and all-day, all-night carnival rides sold only in advance.

History: The fair marks its 95th running this year.

Entertainment highlights: The fair features additional grandstand entertainment with separate admission rates from $5 to $10. Events include: Ranch Sorting, Aug 16, $5;  High Stakes Rodeo and Local Barrel Racing, Aug. 17, 7 p.m., $10;  Illini State Pullers Truck Pull, Aug 18, 6:30 p.m., $5;  Farmer’s Class Tractor Pull, Aug 19, 1 p.m. $5; Badger State Tractor Pull, Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m., $5; Mo Pitney concert, Aug. 20, 7 p.m. $10; Demolition Derby, Aug. 20, 7 p.m., $7.

Also at the fair:  4H has a big presence with activities that include an Aug. 19 Family Fun Night at 7 p.m. in the Cattle Arena, Fashion Review at 6 p.m. on Aug. 21 in Moss Hall, a Fur and Feather Sale, 11:30 a.m. in the Cattle Arena,  and a Livestock Auction, 1 p.m. Aug. 22 in the Cattle Arena.

More information:   (815) 239-1641 or visit



When: Aug. 3-7.

Where:  1440 Limekiln Road, Oregon.

Hours: Gates open at 4 p.m. Aug. 3, 7 a.m. on Aug. 4-5, 8 a.m. on Aug. 6-7.

Admission: $8 per person, $25 season pass for gate admission and carnival rides, $50 for VIP pass for gate admission, carnival rides and grandstand show.

Entertainment highlights:  Grandstand programs include an antique tractor parade and tractor pull on  Aug 3; truck and tractor pulls at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 4; Big Hat Rodeo at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5; and Demolition Derby at 6:30 p.m. on Aug 6.

Also at the fair:  The Ogle County 4-H Fair runs concurrently with the County Fair and will showcase projects and products along with animals members have raised. Top entries advance to the Illinois State Fair.

More information:  (815) 732-6962 or



When: Aug. 3-7.

Where: 11900 Country Club Road, Woodstock.

Hours: Fair gates open at 7 a.m.  Carnival rides begin 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


(Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

(Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)


When:  Aug. 9-13.

Where: 28374 Milledgeville Road, Milledgeville.


Admission: $6 daily admission, $20 season ticket, children under 7 are free. $20 unlimited carnival rides on Aug. 10, 11 and 13. Consult ticket office or web site for exact times.

History: Established in 1952 on land donated by Charlie Schell and his family, the Carroll County Fair takes place in what’s now known as  Schell Park.

Entertainment highlights: Dylan Scott and Rae Lynn perform at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 12. Reserved grandstand seats are $10 track wristbands are $20. Also scheduled is a free truck pull on Aug  9 and tractor pull on Aug 10, variety show on Aug. 11. The Aug. 12 demolition derby costs $10 for grandstand admission.

More information:  (815) 225-7444 or



When:  Aug. 9-14

Where:  Boone County Fairgrounds, 8791 Illinois 76, Belvidere,

Hours:  Contact fair office for times at (815) 544-2900.

Admission: $5 on Aug. 9, $6 Aug. 10-14. Season ticketsL $18 advance sale, $20 at gate.

History: Boone County Granges owns and operates the Boone County Fair and fairgrounds. The Boone County Grange, founded in 1923,  is part of a national fraternal organization with a rich history and a highly visible community presence in the United States.

Entertainment highlights:  Along with a carnival, the fair also features tractor and truck pulls at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug. 11,  professional bull riding at 7 p.m. on Aug. 12 and two demolition derbies at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug. 12. There will also be performances daily in the Entertainment Building.

Also at the fair:  Country music singer/songwriter Martina McBride performs at 8 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the grandstand/track, $25 admission.

More information: (815) 544-2900 or visit



When: Aug. 4-7

Where: 101 High Street, Warren.

Hours:  Fair activities begin on at 5 p.m. on Aug. 4, 9 a.m. on Aug. 5-6 and 1 p.m. on Aug. 7. Call (815) 745-2200 for actual hours.

Admission: $5 on Aug. 4; $10 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., $15, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Aug. 5; $10, Aug. 6-7. Adult season pass $25. Kids 6-17 $5 daily or $15 season pass. Free nightly admission after 9 p.m.

History: Sponsored by the Jo Daviess Agricultural Society, officials claim this is the longest consecutively running fair in Illinois. It was first held in 1860, just one year prior to the start of the Civil War.

Entertainment highlights:  Zac Matthews Band, Aug. 4, 5:45 p.m.; Monster Truck Racing League, Aug. 6, 7 p.m.; Demolition Derby, Aug. 7, 4-7 p.m.; entertainment daily at Beer Tent.

More information:  (815) 745-2200 or visit


A County Fair is not complete without a carnival and plenty of rides for both children, teens and adults alike. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

A County Fair is not complete without a carnival and plenty of rides for both children, teens and adults alike. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)


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


— It’s County Fair time —