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Lee County

Lee County Fair organizers ‘feel like we’ve hit our stride’

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AMBOY, Ill. — The schedule for the Lee County 4-H Fair, which kicks off July 25, reads pretty much like the schedule from the year before.

And that’s exactly the way the fair board — and fairgoers — like it.

“We finally feel like we’ve hit our stride,” said Katie Pratt, secretary and registrar for the Lee County 4-H Fair board.

That stride, offering a combination of events for youth and adults, blends in the 4-H judging events with a carnival, grandstand events and plenty of dining options.

“We are really comfortable with where we’re at and what we’ve got to offer. It seems to be playing really well with our fairgoers, and we continue to see big crowds,” Pratt said.

Getting to that place has taken some work and reviewing what fairgoers want in a local fair.

One request? A carnival.

“We’ve got a carnival now and that is something we had gone without for so long, so we’ve given it a try a couple of different ways. We realized that is something that people want and need at their fair, so we make sure we have that,” Pratt said.

The 4-H Fair Marketplace, an event that offers free booth space to local vendors of goods ranging from reclaimed furniture, vintage and farmhouse decor items to garden produce, also has been a hit.

“It varies and we have plenty of space, it’s free, we don’t charge for the booth space and it has been well received. It gives people something to do on that last day of the fair,” Pratt said.

The fair kicks off at noon on July 25 with 4-H judging events. This year, those events reflect some name changes for different 4-H specialties to reflect updated curriculum and learning opportunities in 4-H specialty areas.

“4-H has recategorized their project areas so they reflect more of what we are teaching and talking about in schools, but it’s still a lot of 4-H members putting their hard work on display and it’s always a good time,” Pratt said.

The first day of the fair features a garden tractor and tractor and truck pull starting at 6 p.m. and an Italian beef dinner by the Lee County Farm Bureau Young Leaders that starts at 5 p.m.

On Friday, 4-H judging continues, followed by a pork chop dinner by the Lee County Pork Producers, then the quality meats and baked goods auction followed by a tractor and truck pull on the track.

One event that has proven popular with the fair audience is RC car racing. Each of the cars is sponsored by a local, Lee County farmer, with that farm’s name and logo on their sponsored car. When the fair is over, the farm gets to keep their car.

“That event is so much fun to watch and always draws a crowd,” Pratt said.

As far as planning for weather? Pratt, who farms with her husband, Andy, and his father and brother, said the fair organizers go with the flow, whether it’s hot, cold, rainy or dry.

“We’ve done the fair in drought and we’ve done the fair when it has rained nonstop and we’ve had to cancel all our grandstand events. We don’t pay attention to the weather until we are on the fairgrounds,” Pratt said.

For more information and a full schedule, go to www.leecounty4hcenter.com, or call the fair office at 815-857-2603. Vendors wanting to have a booth at the Marketplace also can call the fair office to sign up for a spot.

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