It is no secret that county fairs are able to survive and in some cases thrive thanks to the community volunteers who donate their time and labor. In some cases, the contributions by community members goes even further.

Those involved with the McHenry County Fair are well aware of the generosity of their volunteers. For the 2012 fair and again for this year’s fair, which will be held July 31 through Aug. 4, a memorial barn has been built thanks to not only monetary donations, but donations of all kinds of materials and equipment to get the buildings constructed.

Last year, a new swine barn was built in memory of three 4-Her’s — Grant Fruin, Kevin Ziller, and Jennifer Kearns.

“Those three young 4-Hers lived close to each other and their families are friends,” explained Ken Bauman, president of the board of directors for the McHenry County Fair.

Recently, the George Dahm Memorial Beef Barn was completed in time for the beginning of this year’s fair. A special dedication ceremony is planned for 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.”

Dahm thought it might be an uphill battle to get the barn built.

“But we were surprised and excited that the whole community responded so graciously,” he noted.

As work on the building began, companies and individuals began making donations of sod, gates, mulch, gutters and about anything else that was needed, Bauman said.

And it didn’t stop there. Companies also brought loaders, backhoes and skid loaders to work on the building site.

The gates and posts were custom-designed for the building, and they are all removable. The barn will hold 183 head of cattle.

There is space for six rows of cattle, in 8-foot deep stalls with 8-foot alleyways. Bauman reported beef entries, in turn, are up 15 percent to 20 percent this year.

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.

“Without our volunteers, our fair would be struggling like many other county fairs,” Bauman stressed.

The fair board already is considering the addition of a pavilion-style building that will include a catering kitchen, restrooms and a shower facility. This building will seat up to 200 people and also be heated and air-conditioned, so it can be utilized throughout the year.

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

And the board’s vision doesn’t stop there. The group also is planning to re-erect the grandstands that were taken down 20 years ago and provide seating for 3,000 people.

I am impressed by the outpouring of support by the members of this community for these projects at the county fairgrounds. These folks know how to make a difference in their community.