Livestock, cakes, models, rodeo, tractor pulls, more...

Lee County Fair & 4-H Show returns

By Brandon LaChance, Editor
Posted 7/9/24

AMBOY – The yearly extravaganza known as the Lee County Fair & 4-H Show is returning to Amboy Thursday to Sunday, July 25-28 at the Lee County Fairgrounds, located at 1196 Franklin Road.

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Livestock, cakes, models, rodeo, tractor pulls, more...

Lee County Fair & 4-H Show returns


AMBOY – The yearly extravaganza known as the Lee County Fair & 4-H Show is returning to Amboy Thursday to Sunday, July 25-28 at the Lee County Fairgrounds, located at 1196 Franklin Road.

If you’ve never been and plan to go this year, there is always a ton to see whether it’s cowboys and cowgirls being thrown off of horses and bulls, kitchen creations Home & Garden TV would love to have on an episode, or an enormous cow raised by a 12-year-old.

The list could seriously go on, and on, and on, and on, of the awesomeness captured at the Lee County Fair & 4-H Show.

“No, it never gets old seeing what these kids can do. There is always someone who shows up with some project that blows your mind,” said Lee County Fair Association Secretary Katie Pratt, who is a lifelong 4-Her and has been on the LCFA Board for 21 years. “I remember a decade ago, a trailer pulled in and a kid had restored a tractor. It was his mechanical sciences project. It was so neat. It turned out the tractor had history within his family, which added to the story.

“Last year, we had a beautiful, four-tier cake a senior 4-H member brought in. It was a work of art. You just don’t know who is going to walk in next with something really big or really small. In the end, the story behind it makes it great. It’s always neat to see.”

The fair/show is a partnership between the Lee County Fair Association and the University of Illinois Extension – Lee County.

The college extension office handles everything 4-H and the LCFA handles everything else.

“The 4-H show is unique because it’s two days and has big events such as a rodeo and truck/tractor pull and numerous vendors, wrapped around the 4-H show. This gives the kids the experience of a full-blown county fair combined with the chance to win ribbons for their projects.

“This year I think people will find our schedule is pretty similar to previous years. We have our popular, grandstand events. Thursday is a tractor/truck pull with Back Road Pullers, Inc. Anyone who has been to Sublette’s pull event will be familiar with Black Road Pullers. There are no more garden tractors on Thursday, just tractor/trucks.

“Friday is Illini State Pullers with their tractor/truck pull and Saturday the rodeo is back. Those are the three big events in the grandstand.”

The full schedule of the Lee County Fair & 4-H Show can be found on the website, as well as Facebook and Instagram.

The 21-member Lee County Fair Association Board, including president Riley Klein, vice-president Skip Willett, treasurer Andy Pratt, continually try to add and improve the fair from year to year.

This year there isn’t too many brand-new attractions, but one that will be memorable.

“One new thing this year, and I laugh every time I say it, we’re going to try donkey basketball. We did donkey races two years ago and evidently people thought it was great. Now we’re going to try to play basketball with donkeys at 1 p.m. Sunday in the show barn.

“Right now, the Amboy FFA and the Ashton-Franklin Center FFA have teams. We’re going to open the other two spots for teams as we get closer to the fair so they can try their hands at this donkey madness.”

The new entry in 2023 was the Open Show. After an overwhelming debut, it returns.

Fair goers may also see some foundational or decorative enhancements.

“This is our second year of our Open Show, which we are excited about because it was so well received last year,” Katie Pratt said. “There is the 4-H Show for Lee County 4-H members. There is the Junior Show open for youth, ages 8-21, from any county. And now we have the Open Show. The Open Show is open for anybody of any age from anywhere.  “We have five departments this year with cooking/baking, flowers/gardening, fibers, art, and photography. There are a lot of options within those categories for people to come and maybe win a best in show ribbon.

“Either last year or two years ago we received a significant amount of money from Lee County through the ARPA funds. It was the last of the COVID-19 money that the federal government had given to counties to recover from the pandemic. We applied and received $238,000, I believe. It was shocking and amazing. Since we received the funds, we’ve done improvements such as new steel, new installation, and new flooring on our buildings. We’ve made improvements on our fair office, our show barn, and out at the track.”

There is a new cooler to keep the kitchen creations cool.

A sign on the north end of the grounds proclaims the location is indeed Lee County Fairgrounds.

The arch at the entry gate is not on sight at the moment, but it will be after being repainted and refurbished.

Pratt has answered “no” to the question, “Has the arch been stolen” quite a few times in the last few weeks.

Everything is being prepared to be ready for the Lee County Fair & 4-H Show, which originated in 1858 in Dixon, was moved to Amboy City Park, and relocated to 1196 Franklin Road in 1956.

“The work we put into the fair every year pays off in the end. Last year was high heat, horrible heat, we had two nights of storms that took out every pop-up tent we had at the fairgrounds,” Pratt said. “We lost electricity and didn’t have electricity for half a day.

“Despite of all that, we walked away saying it was another successful fair. Only because the people make it great. The people who showed up. The people who helped with the electrical issues. The people who helped clean up after the storms. And our exhibitors who kind of say, ‘This is a fair, we expect this to happen.’

“It always makes it good regardless of the challenges we face.”