Will there be a 2021 Lake County Fair? Depends on COVID-19 recovery
DuPage County has canceled its county fair; Kane County officials are planning to go ahead with theirs.
But with just about three months until the scheduled start of the Lake County Fair, officials at the Grayslake fairgrounds remain somewhere in the middle.
Organizers hope for a fair this year, and have posted the scheduled July 28 to Aug. 1 dates on the fairground website. But they also acknowledge the event could be canceled for the second year in a row if the area has not made enough progress combating COVID-19.
"We are keeping a cautious eye on CDC, Illinois State Health Department and Lake County Health Department guidelines under Restore Illinois, which mandates that conventions, festivals and large events cannot be held until the Bridge Phase, or Phase 5, is reached," Lake County Fair Association spokeswoman Sue Markgraf said. "We will then move cautiously forward."
If the state remains in Phase 4, there will be no 2021 Lake County Fair.
Illinois was supposed to enter the Bridge Phase in mid-April, but rising COVID-19 hospitalization rates led officials to push it off until May at the earliest.
State requirements to move to the Bridge Phase include 28 straight days of stable or declining hospitalizations and deaths from the respiratory disease. At that point, the state would ease capacity restrictions for restaurants, conventions, festivals and other social events.
Last year, Lake County Fair officials waited until early June to cancel the 2020 fair.
Officials did not elaborate on whether preliminary planning was taking place now in the event the fair could be held.
The fair typically hosts food vendors, carnival rides, live animals, a flower show, motocross events and a demolition derby. Not having a firm answer on whether the event is going forward could make it difficult to attract vendors and other organizations.
But one group that has assured fair officials they will attend should the event proceed is the Lake County Farm Bureau, according to the bureau Executive Director Gregory Koeppen.
"I told them if they move forward they are guaranteed to have our support," Koeppen said. "But we'll respect whatever their decision is to keep their potential attendees safe."
The farm bureau has had a close relationship with the fair since 1954, when the event was held routes 45 and 120 in Grayslake. The relationship continued after the fair moved to the new fairgrounds property at Peterson and Midlothian roads in 2008.
Koeppen said the farm bureau always hosts an agriculture education booth where kids can be a farmer for a day and pick potatoes and carrots.
"It's a way to remind folks whose families may have been removed from agriculture for generations just how important agriculture still is for Lake County," Koeppen said.
Whether the Lake County Fair goes on, the fairgrounds will continue to fill an important role in the fight against COVID-19. The Lake County Health Department is using the property as a walk-in vaccination site through the end of May, according to a statement from Markgraf earlier this month.