All is Fair in Will County
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com August 20, 2013 6:10PM
Lauren Conway, of Bourbonnais, cleans the windows on the ice cream stand where she will be working during the Will County Fair from Wednesday to Sunday. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:14AM
When the Will County Fair opens Wednesday for the 110th time, fair president Ron Meyer is confident it will be “one of the best in the state.”
He admitted he “may be prejudiced,” but noted, “There is so much for everyone to do at this fair.”
The fair runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds on Wilmington-Peotone Road in Peotone.
As vice president of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, Meyer has been to more than 30 county fairs this summer, and prefers Will County because of the “cleanliness” of the grounds and “friendliness” of the people, he said.
Meyer, who has exhibited his dairy cattle at the fair since 1957, is “amazed” that the livestock numbers continue to be strong, along with entries in other exhibits, he said.
His wife, Lois Meyer, said they strive to keep the fair agricultural to “educate the urban public.”
“People come here because they like to exhibit,” she said. This year, she said, there are a record 2,300 entries in the fine arts of cooking, baking and gardening, more than 800 in photography, and 80 heads of beef.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating 110 years of agriculture, community, crafts and critters.” A commemorative 110th Anniversary cookbook, featuring some blue-ribbon recipes and helpful hints, is available for $10.
While the fair has evolved — and grown — over its years, it remains the place to get reacquainted with old friends and earn bragging rights for best cherry pie, Ron Meyer said.
Baseball, baby contests and horse racing used to be the big draws. Today, popular events are the demolition derby and the Ping Pong Ball Drop for kids, in which 3,000 pingpong balls are released from a helicopter onto the track, and kids go after them in a quest for prizes.
About 300 volunteers try to keep all aspects of the fair running smoothly, and many, such as Ron Meyer, have “fair blood” in their veins.
Lauren Conway, who was helping set up an ice cream booth in the days before the fair opened, said she has been working at food booths since she was 8.
“It’s really fun. I enjoy it. People are excited to be here. How many other 19-year-olds get to spend a week at the fair?” she said. “And the ice cream flurries (with Oreos, Heath bars or Butterfingers) are the best $5 you’ll ever spend.”
Ron Meyer said they “keep the gate cheap” so fairgoers can have fun and spend within their means.
“There’s plenty to see with all the exhibits, and the family entertainment tent is free,” he said.
For five days, the fairgrounds will be home to livestock judging, tractor pulls, 4-H projects, demolition derby and carnival rides.
General admission is $4 per person, and children under 10 are free.
Grounds open at 10 a.m. Wednesday and at 8 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, and close at midnight every night. The carnival opens at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
The county fair highlights include:
Wednesday: Family Day; all carnival rides for $1.50 or 16 for $20, and the 5th annual children’s Ping Pong Ball Drop at 5:30 p.m. on the track.
Thursday: Senior citizens and veterans have a reduced admission fee of $2. Family Bargain Day offers all carnival rides for $1.50 or 16 for $20 from 1 to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. it is Ride-a-Thon Night with unlimited rides for $20. The tractor and truck pull is at 6:30 p.m. in the grandstand with an $8 admission.
The Nationwide Demolition Derby: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday in the grandstand with a $9 admission.
Friday: Green Party Day
Saturday: Democrats Day, sheep-shearing demonstration at noon in the sheep barn, Radio Disney’s road crew from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Chevy display, WVLI sock hop from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the entertainment tent, and the Will County 4-H livestock auction at 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: Republicans Day, baby show at 1:30 p.m., a chili cookoff judging at 3 p.m. and a rodeo at 2 p.m. with an $8 admission.
For more information, visit www.willcountyfair.org.