County fairs are just part of summertime traditions.
From tractor pulls to bull riding to livestock competitions, county fairs give city folks a real taste of country.
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Some fairs are even going a little upscale with local wineries and microbreweries as part of their attractions. At the Lake County Fair, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show is returning with a special exhibit that will appeal to gardeners and flower lovers alike.
So mark your calendars, and get ready to head to the fair.
Kane County Fair
When: 3 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, July 17; noon to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 18; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, July 19-20; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 21
Where: Kane County Fairgrounds, on Oak Street, off Randall Road between routes 64 and 38, St. Charles,
Fox Valley's biggest summer event takes place at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, and bull riding will take center stage for entertainment on two nights.
"ESPN has made bull riding very popular," says Larry Breon, president of the Kane County Fair Association.
Other grandstand entertainment includes an international truck pull championship, a big hat rodeo and a demolition derby. There will be live music with different bands performing each day.
The kids can enjoy a petting zoo, a magic show, a talent show, duck races, racing pigs, rides and a game show. New this year is an arcade center with 25 different games, as well as a food court.
An educational show and Ask-a-Farmer session will give kids a chance to talk about agriculture, Breon says. "That's a nice touch, especially when we're getting farther and farther away from that," he says.
Look online for finalized prices and details. Get discounts on tickets if you bring cans of food to donate to local food pantries.
DuPage County Fair
When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 24-28.
Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
Organizers want you to "Explore the Excitement" at this year's DuPage County Fair in Wheaton.
The Spirits of DuPage beer and wine tasting event will again be held on Friday, offering a chance to sample drinks from local wineries and microbreweries. Last year, more than 20 restaurants also brought food samples. Tickets cost $40.
"It's really well-received," says Jim McGuire, president of the DuPage County Fair Association. "It's a social night and a chance to talk to neighbors and friends in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere."
As in past years, the festival incorporates a community service aspect. Again, they will hold a St. Baldrick's event on Sunday with participants shaving their heads to raise money for children with cancer. Last year's event saw 20 people going bald and raising more than $12,000, McGuire said. "We'll see if we can top that this year," he says.
Guests are also encouraged to bring food items to donate to local food pantries.
In addition to the usual farm animals, this year's event will showcase some exotic creatures. Free ag-ventureland attractions include milking a cow, making a rope, woodcarving, grinding corn kernels and more. Fairgoers also can show off their talents in various competitions.
Lake County Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, July 24-25; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 26-27; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 28
Where: Lake County Fairgrounds 19822 W. Peterson Road, Libertyville
From livestock barns to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, event organizers will "Let the Good Times Grow!" at the 85th annual Lake County Fair in Grayslake.
The fair features pro motocross, a truck and tractor pull, two monster truck shows, a demolition derby, live music, carnival rides and more. Fairgoers can show off their skills in various competitions including livestock and photography.
The Chicago Flower & Garden Show will return near the livestock barn after a successful inaugural year in 2012. The garden-within-the-fair blends horticulture with agriculture and offers a unique perspective on outdoor gardens created by area landscape designers. Guests can purchase garden products in the mini-marketplace.
"It was great, the way they transformed the space with patios and koi ponds," says Sheri Vyfvinkel, general manager for the Lake County Fair Association. "It was absolutely beautiful."
Kids will find plenty to do. New this year is Kidway, a ride area specifically for children.
And don't miss the banana derby, where monkey jockeys race around on dogs. "I know it sounds crazy, and it is, but it has really become a huge fair tradition," Vyfvinkel says. "It's so fun. It's a sight to see."
McHenry County Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 31-Aug 4
Where: McHenry County Fairgrounds 11900 Country Club Road, Woodstock
"Steering You to the Fair" is this year's theme for the McHenry County Fair, which takes place at the fairgrounds in Woodstock.
Expect all the festival favorites, including motocross, a tractor pull, carnival rides and 4-H exhibits, as well as traditions that are more unique to McHenry, such as a veterans salute and an ongoing fundraiser to renovate the livestock barns in honor of three young 4-H members who have passed away in recent years.
The fest focus is, of course, on the county's agricultural roots with various farm-related interactive and educational activities for families to enjoy.
Event spokesman Dan Linneman said the best part about the fair is "seeing everything come together." He has been involved with the fair for nearly two decades, beginning as a 4-H member, showing sheep and pigs. He recalls living at the fairgrounds during fair week and sleeping overnight in the animal barns on army cots.
"We were there from sun up til sun down, hanging out with friends, showing the animals and enjoying the rides," he says.