Traditions beckon visitors back to McHenry County Fair

Each year, the McHenry County Fair Association looks to add new attractions for the annual event in Woodstock.

But it's the fair's traditions, including the Miss McHenry County Pageant, rodeo, demolition derby and a concert capping Saturday's events, that keep people coming back year after year.

The fair, which opens Tuesday, Aug. 2, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 7, will also have food, amusement rides, commercial exhibitors and animal barns, and 4-H and open-class ribbons will be awarded.

  Riders on various tall rides have a view of the McHenry County Fair in Woodstock. John Starks/, 2019

For office manager Diane Hellyer and vendor manager Hannah Meinert, the fair was their family vacation every year as they were growing up.

"A lot of family memories can be created at the fair," Hellyer said.

Meinert said she started going to the fair as an 8-year-old 4-H'er, and "I never left," she laughed.

While the fair is often focused on farm life and agriculture, those who manage the fair said there is something for everyone and their families.

"There are two or three types of people who go to the fair," Hellyer said. "Those who just go for the rides and carnival and never get past that, never see what we show at the fair. Then there are the farm kids who never get to the rides or the carnival."

Susan Simons, financial secretary for the fair board, said she hopes non-farm residents take the time to see what the fair offers outside the midway.

"Come to the fair even if you are not from an agriculture family," she said.

  Sheep judging at the 2019 McHenry County Fair in Woodstock. Paul Valade/, 2019

Once there, families can see the kinds of livestock raised here, where their food comes from, and what their more rural neighbors do every day, she added.

Hellyer also noted there have been changes since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the fair for a year.

When the fair came back a year later, more of the commercial exhibitors asked for outdoor booths. With one of their commercial buildings left empty, they've found new ways to offer events there.

This year, Building C is home to events throughout the day, including pottery making, a firearms safety class, wood carving, a sheriff's office police dog demonstration, and a mother-daughter and father-son look-alike contest.

The air-conditioned building is also open for people to get out of the heat and relax with some food, Simons said.

Entry to the fair is $10 for anyone older than 14, $5 for ages 6 to 13 and free for ages 5 and younger.

Advanced reduced-price tickets are available at the McHenry County Fair website through Monday. Wristbands for the rides are also available at a reduced price until the fair begins.

Crowds navigate the attractions during last year's McHenry County Fair in Woodstock. The fair opens Tuesday, Aug. 2, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 7. Matthew Apgar/Shaw Local News Network, 2021

A full schedule of events throughout the day can also be found at the fair website,, or by calling (815) 338-5315. The fairgrounds are at 11900 Country Club Road, Woodstock.

Grandstand highlights

The grandstand events kick off Tuesday. The schedule includes:

• McHenry County Queen Pageant, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2;

• Veteran's Salute, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3;

• Illinois State Truck and Tractor Pull, 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3;

• Big Air ATV Show, 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4;

• Stateline Hotshots Rodeo Drill Team, 6:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5;

• Next Level Pro Bull Riding, 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5;

• Sara Evans and Big & Rich, grandstand opens at 5:30 p.m. for 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. shows, Saturday, Aug. 6;

• 4WD Promotion Demo Derby, 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7.

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