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County fair brings fun, food, 4-H tradition

The 89th season of the Lake County Fair came to a close July 30 after another successful run at the fairgrounds in Grayslake. A summertime staple and time-honored tradition to many families, the fair offered an eclectic selection of entertainment sure to please guests of all ages, from the petting zoo and children rides to live concerts and, of course, the much-anticipated fair food.

Trying to beat the weekend crowds, Kelle Drew of Mundelein brought her three children to the fair Friday morning to hit the favorite spots they’ve discovered from their visits each year. She stood with other parents milling around AG Adventure – a child-sized interactive farm exhibit hosted by Lake County Farm Bureau where little ones could harvest plastic carrots, dig for toy potatoes, pick faux apples or ride around on a pint-sized John Deer tractor.

“The family-friendly things here are just – we love it,” she said, watching as her nearly 2-year-old daughter doled out plastic eggs to nearby children, who placed them in their buckets before toddling off to another feature of the exhibit.

“I love the petting zoo,” she added. “It’s easy, and there are so many baby animals, so the kids just love it. And the barns out back with all the animals, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Friday was the final day for the 4-H livestock judging competition, and the barn Drew mentioned was buzzing with activity as competitors walked their goats before a judge who appraised each animal with a critical eye before announcing grand champions and reserve grand champions in each division.

While Cheryl Landeck has been part of the dairy goat industry for more than 35 years, this was her second year as a judge.

“I really enjoy [judging],” she said. “It’s a different side of it, but it affords me to meet exhibitors, breeders, owners, see their animals from all over the country.”

Landeck had nothing but praise for the 4-H program and the lessons it teaches to children from an early age. Her own children grew up in the program, which inspired Landeck to raise her own herd of goats even after her three children grew up and moved away. When she decided to sell her herd – “I just decided I didn’t want to milk goats twice a day every day anymore because it’s very restrictive” – she wanted to find a way to stay involved in the dairy goat world, which had turned into an unexpected passion for her. Judging at county fairs was the solution.

“I judged 16 shows my first year,” she said. “I think I’m doing about 10 this year, but I’m judging more farther away, but it’s great because I meet more people and we share the same passion in the dairy goat industry. So it’s a different side of the dairy goat industry that I really like. I didn’t know how much I would like it.”

The fair’s weekend lineup had no shortage of entertainment for guests. Livestock demonstrations – from small pets and poultry to goat milking – and auction kept the crowds milling into the barns while others gathered at the Farm Heritage Display to watch the antique tractor parade.

Others still came for the live music, which included performances by the Georgia Rae Family Band, The Westerlees and Mandy Z & Rural Route One.

Of course, no county fair would be complete without a pie-eating contest and a rodeo, both of which were included in the fair’s schedule.

The Lake County Fairgrounds already has updated its website with a save-the-date for next year’s fair, slated for July 25-29, 2018.

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