Gates are open

Lee County 4-H Fair and Junior Show returns

LEE COUNTY – It’s the end of July in Lee County.

This means one thing, it’s time for the Lee County 4-H Fair and Junior Show. 

Katie Pratt, the secretary of the Lee County Fair Association, is excited for the 4-H members to show what they’ve been working on. 

“It’s a great throwback to the old-fashioned county fairs,” said Pratt, who has held her position for 20 years and is a member of the volunteer board of directors that manage the Lee County 4-H Center and Fair Grounds. “We have about 250 youth that come and display their talents whether it be showing livestock, small animals, or general projects in visual arts, robotics, gardening, flower arranging, or community service and citizenship. I mean the list goes on and on.

“It’s an awesome place to gather to see friends and neighbors that you may not see throughout the year, but you may see them at the fair. We’re pretty proud of our little fair. It’s a place where you going to get something that you probably won’t see at other fairs.”

The fair runs from Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31 at the Lee County 4-H Fairgrounds located at 1196 Franklin Rd., just north of Amboy.

Gates open at noon on Thursday as judging for general projects and livestock start immediately. The Starlight Dance Studio out of Amboy will perform, Bingo will be played, the Garden Tractor, Tractor and Truck Pull will roar, and a game of tug of war will happen at 7 p.m. in the show barn.

Friday’s fun begins with a pancake breakfast hosted by Teen Turf Youth Center (which also runs Saturday and Sunday).

The judges return for the swine show and the dairy show before the Midway opens at 1 p.m. to open the petting zoo, pony rides, and ax throwing. The County Fair Speedway will introduce remote control race cars for people to race as the fair provides the cars. 

Friday also includes a magic show at 4 p.m., Lee County Homemakers will sell pies from 4-7 p.m., the Illini State Pullers Tractor & Truck Pull is at 6:30 p.m., and the kid favorite Pin Dodgeball, where the goal is to hit bowling pins instead of opponents, will be in the show barn at 7 p.m.

“We’re very proud of our 4-Hers. The Junior Show also encompasses youth that comes from surrounding counties,” Pratt said. “We have people show their projects from counties such as Winnebago, Stevenson, Whiteside, Carol, Bureau, La Salle, DeKalb, and Ogle. We have families that come from all over to show in our livestock shows.”

Saturday will be the first day of the horse show, plus the beef show, the Midway opens at 1 p.m. bringing back pony rides, petting zoo, and ax throwing. Free face painting is available on Saturday (as well as Sunday), the Bubble Show is at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and the Broken Horn Rodeo will be in the grandstand at 7 p.m.

The horse show will conclude on Sunday as well as the Marketplace Vendor Fair 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Big Wheel Races, and the Midway opens at 11 a.m.

The grandstands will have a new fair attraction at 1 p.m. with donkey races. 

Every year the Lee County 4-H Fair and Junior Show features something new or attracts a different, bigger crowd.

For the Pratt family and many others in Lee County and the surrounding area, the event is great, clean family fun they cherish every year.

“It’s a family affair for us. My great-grandfather, George King, was on the founding board of directors for the 4-H Center and Fairgrounds,” Pratt said. “My grandfather, Ray Dallam, is on a memorial plaque at our front gate. My father, Gail Dallam, sat on the fair board while I was a 4-H member. When I came home from college, there was an open spot and here I am today. 

“My mom (Jan Dallam) was the quintessential 4-H mom. She was a big volunteer. My brother, my sister, their spouses, my nieces, and my nephews all volunteer and get involved. My husband (Andy Pratt) is the treasurer of the fair board.

“Other kids were doing sports camps every summer, while my family was preparing our projects and animals for the 4-H fair. It was a lot of fun for us and we want to provide the same for our children and the children of every person who enjoys 4-H and the fair.”

The state mandated Bird Flu bird ban was extended 40 days in the beginning of July. This means no birds can be at the fair, but 4-H members wishing to show their birds can still do so with photographs. 

They will be judged the same as they normally would, just via photos instead of in person.