Chris Dahm (right) and Ken Bauman stand in the new George Dahm Memorial Beef Barn at the McHenry County Fairgrounds. In a matter of days, beef cattle will be tied to these custom-made gates and posts, which are designed to be removable to make the building a multi-use facility for events throughout the year.
Chris Dahm (right) and Ken Bauman stand in the new George Dahm Memorial Beef Barn at the McHenry County Fairgrounds. In a matter of days, beef cattle will be tied to these custom-made gates and posts, which are designed to be removable to make the building a multi-use facility for events throughout the year.

WOODSTOCK, Ill. — A new custom-designed barn will house beef cattle entries at the McHenry County Fair, set for July 31 through Aug. 4.

The George Dahm Memorial Beef Barn has been constructed on the fairgrounds located in Woodstock, thanks to the donations and support of numerous community members and businesses in this northern Illinois county. A barn dedication will be held on the opening day of the fair.

“My dad was active in volunteering at the fair, so our family decided we wanted to do something to memorize his activities at the fair,” said Chris Dahm, the son of George Dahm. “Our family started the fund with a donation, but it has been a real big effort from so many people who have donated time, money and materials for this barn.”

In addition to George Dahm, several members of the Dahm family have been involved in the county fair for many years.

“I was on the fair board for many years. My mom, Jane, was the antiques superintendent for over 35 years, which she just gave up reluctantly,” he noted. “And my sister, Angie Boe, runs the Art Department at the fair.”

“The new beef barn will hold 183 head of cattle, and we have gained 15 to 20 percent new beef entries this year,” said Ken Bauman, president of the board of directors of the McHenry County Fair. “There will be six rows of cattle, the stalls are 8-feet deep and there are 8-foot alleyways.”

The gates and posts were custom-made for the barn, and they are all removable.

“Frank Kearns, who owns a welding business, helped us will all of them,” Bauman noted.

The goal is for the fully-enclosed barn to be a multi-purpose building for events throughout the year.

“And the fair might change 10 to 15 years from now as agriculture gets replaced by suburban, so we are also thinking of the future,” Dahm said.

In addition to monetary donations, Bauman said, “companies donated sod, gutters, mulch and anything you can think of for this project.”

“We thought this might be an uphill battle to get this barn built, but we were surprised and excited that the whole community responded so graciously,” Dahm stressed.

“Without our volunteers, our fair would be struggling like many other county fairs,” Bauman noted. “Our volunteers think nothing about bringing a backhoe or skid loader here to help.”

This is not the first time the community has rallied to construct a barn at the fairgrounds. Last year, a new swine barn was constructed in memory of three 4-H members — Grant Fruin, Kevin Ziller and Jennifer Kearns.

“Those three young 4-Hers lived close to each other, and their families were friends,” explained the fair president, who is the fourth generation to operate his dairy and grain farm. “We have a 55-head Holstein herd, we farm 1,700 acres of cropland and we have a custom harvesting business.”

And discussion has started about constructing another building on the fairgrounds.

“We are considering a pavilion-style building with a catering kitchen, restrooms and shower facilities that could set up to 200 people,” Dahm explained. “It will be heated and air-conditioned because there are no banquet halls in Woodstock.”

The current building on the fairgrounds similar to this has a small kitchen and restrooms that need updating.

“But this building is almost continually booked, so there is a demand,” Bauman said.

“Our fair board does not just sit back — they make things happen, and they are not just thinking two or three years out,” he stressed. “They are looking long term.”

Replacing the temporary grandstands of the fairgrounds is another project in the planning stages.

“We have grandstands that were taken down 20 years ago,” Dahm said. “So we would like to re-erect them to seat 3,000 people.”

To provide an opportunity for more people to make donations to the fair, the McHenry County Fair Foundation was set up this year.

“The foundation is holding memorial funds from another 4-Her who died,” Bauman said. “We don’t spend the money in this fund until the family says where they want it to go.”

“My family was contacted throughout the process of building the beef barn,” Dahm reported. “That goes a long way with the family.”

“We feel that since we’re spending someone else’s money, we have to do it in a manner they expect,” Bauman noted.

Last year, about 70,000 people attended the McHenry County Fair.

“My goal is 100,000 for this year,” Bauman said. “But the weather will be a big factor.”

“The future of the McHenry County Fair is bright,” Dahm stressed.