When Larry Breon was growing up, he went to the Kane County Fair to show off his family's cattle as part of the 4-H exhibition.
"It was something you looked forward to all summer," he said. "We weren't in town a lot, so this was our big chance for getting around other kids."
Reuniting with friends you don't always see is still a big part of the fair, but it has grown since Breon, of Batavia, first went.
The Kane County Fair kicks off at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles Wednesday, July 17, and runs through Sunday, July 21. It is open from 3 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 11 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $5, but free for children younger than 5. Weekend hours are noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, with admission for $8. If just one day isn't enough, weekly passes are available for $20.
New this year, ticket sellers will knock a dollar off the price of admission for each can of food you bring in, with a limit of two per person, Breon said.
When planning this year's fair, the board took careful considerations in selecting new deals and activities, said Breon, who is president of the Kane County Fair board.
"There's only X amount of events that you can put on in a venue like we have," he said.
One of the biggest changes this year is the replacement of the rodeo with two additional bull riding shows.
Breon said they replaced the rodeo because of the increasing popularity of bull riding, so the board approached Bob Sauber, the promoter of the event, to ask if he could add a 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. show Saturday in addition to the 7 p.m. show Friday.
After six years, the bull riding competition has grown. About 70 of some of the best riders and 45 to 50 of some of the best bulls from across the country will compete, said Sauber.
About 30 cowgirls will come from across the country to participate in the barrel racing competition. They race around three barrels on horses, competing for the best time.
The excitement of bull riding is great for firing up a crowd, Sauber said.
"It's the adrenaline rush," said Sauber, who has ridden bulls since he was in high school. "When it's you up against a 2,000-pound beast, it's like stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson."
Admission to the bull riding competition is $12 for adults, but is free for children younger than 5. Free pony rides will start one hour before each show and the first 300 kids get to take home a free cowboy hat.
The expansion of the bull riding competition isn't the only exciting new event this year.
The Battle of the Bands will feature 17 competing Chicagoland bands starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Miller Lite Sound Stage for $5.
To give people a chance to cool off, Breon recommends grabbing something to eat and drink and heading to the air-conditioned atrium, where 17 gaming consoles will be set up for all ages.
Two new shows will debut at the festival this year. A traveling mother-daughter magic show will entertain and inform kids about how agriculture is part of your every day life.
Bruno Blaszak will perform with his Bengal tigers. The informational show will teach attendees about the importance of preserving endangered species.
Favorite traditions will return, including the swimming pigs and the racing pigs.
Two demolition derbies will be held Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. Locals are welcome to bring their own vehicles to participate, and Breon assured that extra safety measures, like the removal of glass and the wetting down of the track, will be taken to assure that everyone has a fun and safe time.
As for Breon, as usual, he is most looking forward to the 4-H exhibition, because he said it's great to see kids learning about livestock and agriculture.
"Sometimes people don't realize milk doesn't come from a grocery store," he said.
For a detailed schedule, visit www.kanecountyfair.com.