83rd Lake County Fair offers simpler time

Updated 7/26/2011 5:44 AM

Where else in Lake County can residents see a tractor pull, a demolition derby, a 4-H livestock show and monkeys racing around on dogs, all while enjoying live music and eating funnel cake and corn on the cob.

It must be time for the Lake County Fair.


The 83rd annual fair, which runs Tuesday to Sunday, July 26-31, at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake, will open at 8 a.m. daily. General admission is $10, $5 for kids younger than 12 and free for kids 5 and younger.

This year, visitors can enjoy more entertainment, with performers and family-friendly shows every day, said Sheri Vyfvinkel, business manager for the Lake County Fair Association.

Several family favorites are back, including the rodeo, motocross and demolition derby, and the fair will feature more rides and games than in the past, Vyfvinkel said.

One new, and very different, event will be the Banana Derby, which will exhibit monkeys in jockey clothing racing around a track while riding dogs.

The Banana Derby is never the same twice, said Phil Hendricks, who travels with the show, trains the animals and refers to himself as the "top banana."

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"There's not always a chance to see monkeys up close and personal, and everyone loves dogs," Hendricks said.

The show involves four dogs and three monkeys that have been traveling and performing across the country for the past four years, Hendricks said.

Capuchin monkeys, which were historically used as service animals and organ grinders, appeal to the audience with their intelligence, he said.

Hendricks, who is originally from the Chicago area, said he is also looking forward to visiting family while back in area.

"I went to the Lake County Fair growing up, so I have some pride in it and look forward to coming back for it," he said.

The Fair Association will also give a special tribute to Orion Samuelson from WGN-AM radio, who has been a supporter of the fair for many years, Vyfvinkel said.

"He has had a connection with county fairs throughout his career," she said. "In an era when it's all about technology and computers, county fair really brings us back to a simpler time and creates a place for communities to gather. Orion has been a great person to keep that alive and we want to thank him for that."


For many people, like Annie Petersen, the Lake County Fair is an annual tradition that can't be missed. Petersen will celebrate her 60th year working at the fair this year.

She started attending the Lake County Fair when she was 10, showing animals through 4-H, and has been supporting the fair ever since.

"I enjoy meeting the people and exhibitors I see year after year," said Petersen, who is now a retired teacher. "I see them as children and when they grow up and bring their children. It's a cycle."

After 60 years, Petersen said her favorite part of the fair is the agricultural base it was originally founded on.

"For children who never have an experience to be that close to animals, it's fun and educational," she said. "I still enjoy going down to see the farm animals because, at one point, I had those animals."

The music will feature tunes from local bands and fan favorites, including American English, a Beatles tribute band that is back this year by popular demand after their performance at last year's fair. American English will play Friday, July 29, at 8:30 p.m.

One band making its first appearance at the fair is The August, a country/rock group originally from the area that has recently moved to Nashville to record an album.

Band members grew up in Lake Villa and Arlington Heights and spent time as substitute teachers at Antioch and Grayslake high schools. Wojtek Krupka, a songwriter in The August, said the band is beyond excited to come home and play.

"More than anything, it'll be great to get back home and preform in front of our hometown crowd again," Krupka said. "I remember going to the fair growing up. It'll be great to be a part of that atmosphere."

The August will play at noon on Saturday, July 30.

The Lake County Fair Association is expecting 200,000 people to attend this year's event, which also attracts visitors from Cook County.

"With this urban environment we're in, it's really a break from the norm," Vyfvinkel said. "Food on a stick, funnel cake, good music -- what's not to love?"

For specific hours, discount coupons, directions and information about season passes, group rates and promotions, as well as a full schedule of events, activities and competitions, visit lcfair.com.