For Susan Simons of Marengo, the McHenry County Fair has been a staple summer event since her daughter started participating in a 4-H club 13 years ago.
Since then, Simons' involvement in the fair has grown, and this year, she serves as the secretary on the fair board. Between attending meetings and coordinating events, Simons said, she is amazed at how much work is put into the fair each year.
"When you come to the fair, you don't realize what all goes on behind the scenes," she said. "It was really an eye opener for me, but I enjoy it."
As always, this year's McHenry County Fair has a lot to offer visitors, Simons said, including some new events and returning fan favorites.
The 66th annual fair will begin Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds on Country Club Road in Woodstock. Gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. each day.
Tickets are $7 for a one-day pass, and $3 for seniors and children 8 to 12. Children younger than 8 are admitted free.
The fairgrounds have been updated and improved over the past few years, Simons said, which makes the fair more aesthetically pleasing.
Two new buildings have been built in the past two years, and barns have been updated. This year, Simons said, the sheep barn was redone.
"We've done quite a few improvements, which is exciting," she said.
Building E has been renovated and houses many of the educational exhibits such as the petting zoo and educational booths, said Sarah Toth, assistant commercial manager.
One of the fair's biggest events takes place the night of the fair's opening day. The McHenry County Queen Pageant will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Grandstand, Toth said. Eleven contestants are entered so far, she said, and they will all compete Wednesday night.
Other acts can be found throughout the weekend at the Grandstand as well, Simons said. Motocross, for example, takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday and tickets are $5.
"That's always one of our most popular events," she said.
The entertainment tent also promises a fun time, Simons said. Bands will play live music at various times throughout the weekend, and bingo takes place Thursday and Friday afternoons.
Visitors can check out various activities and features at any point throughout the festival, including livestock auctions and shows, the Skinners' Amusements carnival, games and other vendors.
Toth's favorite displays to check out at the fair are the art exhibits, she said.
"In the past, I have entered some pieces of artwork in the open art shows, and I think it's interesting to see what other people have entered," Toth said. "You can take a look at local artists' work. That's probably one of the coolest things we have going on."
New to the fair this year at Hansen Pavillion on Wednesday night is a show featuring Greg Peterson from the Peterson Farm Brothers. Simons said the group remakes popular songs into parodies using farming terminology.
For Simons, the best part of the McHenry County Fair is watching all the 4-H kids present their projects and demonstrate all the work that they have put into the organization each year.
The 4-H awards ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hansen Pavillion.
"(The kids) have a very good work ethic," Simons said. "I enjoy watching the kids show, and I love seeing their accomplishments."
She said her own kids were involved in 4-H when they were younger, and they learned a great deal of responsibility throughout the years.
The fair brings in about 70,000 visitors each year, Simons said. With such a large festival, hundreds of volunteers are needed to make everything run smoothly.
"There are so many people, man hours and volunteer hours put into this and in preparation for the fair," Simons said. "I think that's one thing that people don't really realize."
For more information about the McHenry County Fair, visit McHenryCountyFair.com or call (815) 338-5315.