There’s only one place in this great nation can you see cars smash into one another, hear an up-and-coming singer and pet a cow all while sucking down a lemon shake-up: a county fair.
Fortunately, there are several county fairs in our vicinity. Here’s a look at when and where you can get back to the country.
Kane County Fairgrounds
♦ 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles
♦ July 17-21
♦ 3 to 11 p.m. Wednesday; noon to 11 p.m. Thursday; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
♦ $5 Wednesday; $8 Thursday through Sunday. Free for children under 5. Seniors free on Wednesday. Season tickets $20
♦ (630) 584-6926
♦ Free parking with entrances at Oak Street, Route 38 and Route 64
The 145th Kane County Fair runs July 17-21 at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles with plenty of old-fashioned fun.
Fairgoers can save a couple dollars the first two days of the fair by bringing in a donation of two non-perishable food items. (Or one item for $1 off admission.) The food will be donated to Kane County food pantries, said fair board president Larry Breon.
Another new promotion is called Thank a Farmer Magic Show. Families can learn all about the role agriculture plays in society and about the day in the life of a farmer from a mother-daughter team.
“Milk doesn’t come from the Jewel, milk comes from a cow,” Breon said. “It’s kind of hard for people to remember that sometimes. I think the county fair is a good place to (remind people) of that.”
If that doesn’t interest your kids, they might like the Game Experience Exhibit (IGX) in the atrium of the newest building, Breon said.
The IGX is super-charged with 17 game ports with high definition flat screen technology and two 42-inch minor ports. Game platforms include Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Gamers can sign up each day for tournaments and winners will receive gift card prizes. Teens can test out games like Call of Duty, Gran Turismo 5 and Wii Mario Kart; while younger gamers can try out games from Disney, Mario and the Lego series.
“Kids can play them for free and try them out,” he said. “We’re doing things a little bit different and see how it flies.”
Headlining the free Miller Lite Soundstage are Your Villain My Hero on July 17, Hillbilly Rockstarz July 18, Seventh Heaven July 19, American English July 20 and Maggie Speaks July 21. Headliners play at 8 p.m. each day except 6 p.m. Sunday.
Returning grandstand entertainment is the International Truck Pull on July 18, Championship Bull Riding on July 19 and 20, and the demolition derby on July 21.
Grandstand entertainment costs between $10 and $12.
“The demo derby has always been popular. It’s one of those things we’ve had for years and years,” he said. “People like to watch the car crash, and it’s under controlled circumstances where people don’t get hurt. But they like to see cars get banged up.
“The bull riding — ESPN has made bull riding a very popular viewer sport,” he said. “People watch it and it gets terrific ratings. Consequently, it has a lot of interest. And the production we have is very high quality.”
There are plenty of free acts on the grounds; like Swifty Swine racing pigs, KidsBucks show, Miller Petting Zoo, Kiddy Land with younger age-appropriate rides and games, the Sheer Magic show, the big cat show and the talent show.
The Fantasy Amusements carnival runs throughout the fair, with discount days and wristband specials. 4-H is still a big part of the fair, with kids exhibiting everything from rabbits and livestock to model cars and photography.
Keeping the Kane County Fair balanced between its agricultural roots and the 21st century is a tricky row to hoe, he said.
“The thought of a county fair talks to you about agriculture. Of course in our area, years ago the whole community was based on agriculture,” he said. “Now of course it’s a very minor part in our immediate area. So, 4-H is a great vehicle to keep agriculture alive and keep the information flowing. We still have a very good 4-H program in Kane County, and … that helps. They’ve modernized; they have rocketry and environmental horticulture.”
The county fair provides families with an inexpensive day of old-fashioned fun, he said.
“For a minimal price of coming in, you can see a lot of things and have a good time,” he said. “You don’t need to go a long ways and spend an arm and a leg to do it. I don’t know how you can beat it.”
DuPage County Fair
♦ DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
♦ July 24-28
♦ 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
♦ $10; $4 children 3-12; children 2 and under free. Season pass $30. Seniors 62 years and older free until 3 p.m. July 24, 25, 26
♦ (630) 668-6636
New this year at the DuPage County Fair is an exhibit sure to make your skin crawl. The Wild World of Animals is a traveling animal show filled with critters like a 13-foot, 100-pound python.
Also new are some old-fashioned “redneck” games on July 27, like a bale toss for men, a husband calling contest for women, a hay stack treasure hunt for children and a pie eating contest for everyone.
Returning is the Spirits of DuPage beer and wine tasting fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. July 26. For $40, which includes admission to the fair, visitors can enjoy fine wines, beers and appetizers while listening to a performance by the Deb Welch Band.
Musical entertainment includes Midnight Special on July 24, Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm on July 25 and Comfortably Floyd (with a laser show) on July 27.
Nothing beats the demolition derby at 2 and 7 p.m. July 28. The cost is $8 plus fair admission.
Additionally, the third annual dog adoption sponsored by the DuPage County Fair and Dog Patch Pet and Feed of Naperville running throughout the fair.
The free Ag-Ventureland returns with a whole mess of activities for kids; such as milking a cow, making a rope, touching reptiles, woodcarving, shelling an ear of corn, small engines, baby chicks hatching, an active bee hive, maple syrup exhibit, antique tractors, cornbox, pedal tractors and a petting zoo.
Grownups can find some free activities in the beer and program tents, and a country craft fair in the fair café.
What’s a county fair without some competition? The DuPage County Fair will once again host a talent contest with the finals on July 27. Amateur cooks get their chance to shine in Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship July 27 and the Gold Medal Flour Scratch Bakers Cookie Challenge July 26.
Lake County Fair
♦ Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake
♦ July 24-28
♦ 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
♦ $8 for adults Wednesday through Friday and $10 on Saturday and Sunday. Seniors 65 and older and children ages 6 through 12 cost $5 daily. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. Cash only
The Lake County Fair will return for its 85th season, building on its agricultural roots but with the quirky twist festgoers have come to expect.
The fair runs July 24 to 28, at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.
New at the fair are the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. At least two will be onsite at the fair each day, with a Budweiser Clydesdale Parade at 1 p.m. on July 28 and 29.
Also new this year is the Kid Korral and Kidway, a kid-friendly area off Livestock Lane devoted to games and events for young children. This is where you’ll find the Banana Derby, which is actual monkey jockeys racing on dogs, every day. The Meanser Magic Show, petting zoo and pony rides are here as well.
The Mainstage entertainment includes Too White Crew on July 25, Bella Cain on July 26 and Gentlemen of Leisure on July 27.
Fairgoers can hunt for the elusive Sasquatch in the second annual Sasquatch Calling Contest July 26, and take their best shot in the second annual Old-Fashioned Pie Eating Competition July 27.
Also, get the family together for the first annual Lake County Fair Field Day and try your best at games like the three-legged race, the water balloon toss and the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
Fans of high-octane fun will delight in motocross on July 24 and 25, followed by a tractor pull on July 26 and two monster truck shows on July 27 before the fair closes with an all-day demolition derby.
The demolition derby is presented by Darkhorse Racing. The Lake County Fair is the only show for Darkhorse Racing this year.
The fair’s theme is “Let the Good Times Grow,” and nowhere is that more evident than at the Ag Adventure’s 2,000 square foot farm-in-the-fair, presented in partnership with the Lake County Farm Bureau and appropriate for kids ages 3 to 8. Using interactive games and activities, Ag Adventure seeks to educate children about farm life
The Chicago Flower and Garden Show will be at the celebrating its year-long theme, “Do Green. Do Good.” Master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about lawns, gardens, containers and more.
Finally, the hard work of 4-H and open class exhibitors comes to a head July 27 with the livestock auction of goat, swine, sheep and beef.
Kendall County Fair and 4-H Show
♦ County Fairgrounds at 10826 Illinois Route 71, Yorkville
♦ Aug. 1-4
♦ 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
♦ $7 for adults; $3 for children ages 5-13; $4 for seniors 62 and up. Four-day passes are available. Free for active military personnel with ID
♦ (630) 553-2860
The Kendall County Fair and 4-H Show will be Aug. 1 to 4 at the fairgrounds in Yorkville.
“The fair has grown very rapidly,” said Mike Drendel, president of the Kendall County Fair Board. “It’s grown into a lot more than I ever thought it would be.”
All entertainment at the fair is free with paid admission.
The fair kicks off Aug. 1 with the Western Speed horse show.
“These horses come from all over the state of Illinois,” he said. “They have races around flags and barrels … there’s about 20 events that these exhibitors and their horses participate in.”
Also on Thursday is musician Brian ‘Voo’ Davis on the Family Stage, he said.
“Friday night we’re having karaoke night. There’s a contest we’ve had whole month of July where they’ve had to qualify to be in the finals at different establishments in the county. The finals will have eight people who have won at local establishments.”
Other musical entertainment includes the Red Wood Band and Back Country Roads on Aug. 3.
Friday also features the “super popular “truck and tractor pull Aug. 2, he said. Followed closely in popularity is the demolition derby Aug. 4, he said.
On Aug. 3, magicians Rob Thompson and Circus Boy will entertain on the Family Stage; while the Freestyle Madness stunt bike show thrills crowds in the arena.
“We have big crowds on Saturday, so we try to have something for everybody to be entertained,” he said.
Aug. 4 features a parade of antique tractors and a kid’s pedal pull, as well as the demolition derby in the afternoon.
What he hears the most is that the Kendall County Fair is a comfortable, family-friendly event.
“Our fair is like an old-time county fair,” he said. “It’s what we imagine a fair should be, where we can go in and look at the old-timey tractors and pet the animals and talk to the exhibitors.”
The 4-H exhibitors are an important part of the fair, he said. He grew up showing livestock in DuPage County, and it’s still where his heart is.
“I would invite anybody to come see our livestock show. It’s some of the best livestock in the state of Illinois,” he said. “They do a great job.”
Other events at the fair include a carnival, a livestock auction, Harding’s Chainsaw Log Carving, petting zoo and pony rides, Buttons the Clown, face painting, a kid’s tent, beer garden and food booths.
“It’s a comfortable. It’s under the trees and we work real hard to keep it clean,” he said. “We just want people to come out and have a good time.”
Will County Fair
♦ Aug. 21-25
♦ 710 West St., (Wilmington-Peotone Road), Peotone
♦ $4, children under 10 are free
♦ (708) 258-9359
The 110th annual Will County Fair caps off the summer Aug. 21-25 at the fairgrounds in Peotone.
Each day of the fair is themed. Aug. 21 is Family Day, where carnival rides cost $1.50 apiece or 16 for $20. Children can participate in the ping pong ball drop at 5:30 p.m.
Senior Citizens and Veterans Day will enjoy $2 admission on Aug. 22, along with carnival ride specials. Over at the grandstand, a truck and tractor pull will be at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $8.
Demolition Derby Day 1 is Aug. 23, with the Nationwide Demolition Derby set for 7 p.m. The cost is $9. Democrat Day and Demolition Derby Day 2 are Aug. 24. You can take in a sheep shearing demonstration, swing by a display from the Radio Disney road crew, go to Sock Hop and take in the Will County 4-H Livestock Auction before the Nationwide Demolition Derby at 7 p.m. in the grandstand. The cost is $9.
Aug. 25 is Republican Day, and features a baby show, a rodeo and the fourth annual Chili Cook-off with judging at 3 p.m.
Entertainment in the beer garden will be supplied by the band Black Cadillac on Aug. 22, with Iron Horse performing the other nights.
The Family Entertainment Tent will have daily activities throughout the fair, like a kid’s circus, Mr. E.’s Variety Show, Ben’s Bubble Show, Magic Mike and Anita Reno.