The sights and sounds of the Western suburbs' more rural days came alive again Sunday as the Kane County Fair wrapped up in St. Charles.
Gravel crunched under tires as visitors pulled into parking spaces, stroller wheels squeaked as parents pushed little ones toward ticket booths, sunscreen bottles squirted as people protected their skin from a bright summer sun, while inside the gates, the fair's final day hummed with life.
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Sunday was the culmination of the 4-H Blue Ribbon Sale, an auction in which the steers, cattle, dairy, hogs, sheep, goats, poultry and rabbits that received top honors from fair judges are sold. Community members get in bidding battles that ratchet up prices, and proceeds go mainly to the 4-H club member who raised the animal, with a portion supporting club operations as a whole.
"If they get a blue ribbon, they qualify for the sale. That means the judges thought they were ready to go to market," said Anne Carson, a member of the Kane County 4-H subcommittee that runs the annual auction. "Their animal will bring more than market value, then they use it to support their projects, save for college and that kind of thing."
The first three animals to be sold -- the grand champion steer, reserve champion steer and grand champion fat heifer -- all were raised by members of the Engel family of Marengo. Nineteen-year-old Danielle drew $3.30 a pound for her 1,305-pound grand champion steer, while 10-year-old Chase produced the reserve grand champion steer, and 9-year-old Brody raised the grand champion fat heifer.
"It's an honor to be able to win this and be the fourth generation of Engels to go through the Kane County Fair," Danielle Engel said.
As other young 4-H members in plaid shirts, jeans and boots walked their animals into the livestock arena, the father-and-son team of Steve and Andrew Almburg kept things moving with that fast-talking sales pitch unique to auctioneers. Spectators slurped tall lemonades and licked ice cream cones as generators purred behind food booths and cars rumbled along carnival rides.
"One of our favorites so far was the one we were just on -- the dragon," said 8-year-old Aspen Kieckhefer of Reno, Nevada, who attended the fair with her 5-year-old sister, Lucy, and grandparents, Cindy and Bob Kieckhefer of Batavia. "It like its speed. It's really exciting and fun."
As engines revved and car parts smashed during demolition derbies staged at 2 and 7 p.m., the fair prepared to close its gates on another year, ending a five-day run.