Lake County Fair canceled; virtual competition in the works

All things considered, the announcement Monday to cancel the 92nd annual Lake County Fair, which was scheduled to run July 29-Aug. 2 in Grayslake, was inevitable.

Summerfest in Milwaukee, Country Thunder in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Fair, and the DuPage and Kane County fairs already had pulled up stakes for 2020 due to the coronavirus when the Lake County Fair Association with "heavy hearts" announced its decision Monday.

"We feel under the circumstances of uncertainty, this is the right decision for the health and safety of fairgoers, supporters, volunteers and the surrounding community," according to a statement.

Jon Brodzik Jr., general manager of the fairgrounds complex on Peterson and Midlothian roads in Grayslake, has been attending the Lake County Fair for 40 years, and his kids were involved with 4-H.

"I'm still trying to get over this myself, honestly," Brodzik said Monday. "It's as shocking to us as it is to everybody else."

But there will be a virtual experience for kids who raise and show animals, as well as the many exhibitors who vie for awards in categories such as the longest, largest or most deformed fruit or vegetable.

Officially, the annual county fair is the association's primary way of pursuing its mission to preserve the past, promote the future and educate the public on agriculture, horticulture, mechanical arts, and rural and domestic economies.

Fairgoers get that, but the carnival rides and attractions, food vendors and social atmosphere make it a go-to summer experience for many.

"It's the one event everybody looks forward to," said Greg Koeppen, manager of the Lake County Farm Bureau in Grayslake.

It's also a highlight for youngsters involved in 4-H who raise or show animals and livestock.

"The hardest part is the 4-H kids and the young kids who have raised these animals since last fall," Koeppen said.

They won't gather in person, but Brodzik said those involved in 4-H will still be celebrated via a virtual component offered by the University of Illinois, which oversees the program.

"U of I came up with a way to do it themselves, and we're going to try and give them (competitors) a page on our website," he said.

The Lake County Fair Association also is working on a logistics for a virtual livestock auction.

The farm bureau has had a close relationship with the fair since 1954, when the event was next door at routes 45 and 120 in Grayslake. The relationship continued after the event moved to the new fairgrounds property at Peterson and Midlothian roads in 2008.

The first Lake County Fair was hosted by the Lake County Agricultural Society in 1851 in Antioch and until moving to Grayslake operated under a variety of names in various locations. This year will be the first time the fair has been canceled since its been held in Grayslake, Brodzik said.

"We look forward to coming back #fairstrong - July 28-Aug. 1, 2021," according to the association.

For more information on the planned virtual fair, visit

  Caleb Linneman of Hebron hangs out in the swine barn after showing sheep at the 2019 Lake County Fair in Grayslake. The fair has been canceled for 2020. Paul Valade/
The Lake County Fair settled into its longtime home at routes 45 and 120 in Grayslake in 1954. Courtesy of the Grayslake Historical Society
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