By Tom Ratcliffe
Fair Board Director
As part of Ag Week, the Belvidere Daily Republican will publish a series of articles from guest columnists from throughout the community. The article from Tom Ratcliffe is the first in the three part series.
BELVIDERE –A successful talented young country music star, the complete Beatles Tribute band “American English”, Dueling Pianos show every afternoon, Roman riding of a team of six galloping Percheron draft horses are just a few of new attractions at the 2014 Boone County Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 5th through Sunday, Aug. 10th at the beautiful fairgrounds park one mile north of Belvidere, Illinois on Route 76.
The Boone County Fair is a six day celebration of agriculture and rural America dedicated to families. You can be a part of this celebration by witnessing the finest in livestock production, from the largest and most powerful draft horse to the smallest of rabbits. Literally hundreds upon hundreds of animals competing for that coveted blue ribbon whether it be a 4-H member or an open class competitor. We’re very proud of our large livestock show and proud of the fine work all our livestock superintendents do in promoting their various departments. Our draft horse, horse, dairy, beef, sheep, goat, ponies, rabbits, chickens, and hogs are some of the top county fair livestock shows in the state if not the Midwest. As you walk through the many barns and see the fine animals be sure and talk to the owners. Let them know you appreciate their efforts and hard work to put on such amazing presentations.
And then we have what we call Non-Livestock Exhibits (or Home Ec) in our Home Economics building behind commercial building #3. Here you can see the handiwork of area residents in the form of produce from the garden or grains in the field, handmade quilts, homemade cakes and cookies, amateur photography, woodworking, posters, jewelry, it goes on and on. There are more than six thousand entries in all. Again each item vying for that blue ribbon and its’ bragging rights.
If you like to shop and you like to eat…you’ve come to the right place. We have three large buildings packed with commercial exhibits advertising the latest and greatest of new ideas and items.
It’s like going to the mall with hundreds of small stores. These small stores extend to outside the buildings where there are hundreds of outdoor commercial exhibitors as well. And included in these are those wonderful food vendors. Everything for your taste buds is here from stuffed baked potatoes to homemade donuts to mouthwatering sweet corn to chocolate covered bacon. If it comes on a stick we have it. Many of these food vendors are local organizations working to raise money, from local Boy Scout troops to the local Lions Club. The Granges of Boone County are serving in the main dining pavilion baked ham on Thursday, fish on Friday, charcoal grilled chicken on Saturday and charcoal grilled pork chops on Sunday. And of course the breakfast stand is open all six days at 6am. There’s nothing like hotcakes on a cool summer morning. We like to think of the fair as one large community fundraiser.
The Entertainment Pavilion
As they say “The show must go on”. Ours goes on all day for all six days. Our ‘Entertainment Pavilion’ located beside Commercial Building #1 schedule more than 50 hours of free entertainment with 25 entertainers performing during the six days of the fair. And if you have talent and like to perform then you’ll want to enter the Boone County Fair Talent Contest at the Entertainment Pavilion on Saturday (under 14 at 9:30 a.m.) (14-21 at 12:30 p.m.). You could win up to $100 and get a chance to compete on the state level in Springfield in January representing Boone County at the State County Fair Convention. You never know…you could be “discovered”.
More Free Entertainment
Other free entertainment on the grounds all six days features one of the best family musical groups in the country. Back by popular demand for their fourth year at the Boone County Fair from Salt Lake City, Utah the nationally known “Mama’s Wranglers” featuring a family of six who all play fiddle, as well as other instruments, along with singing and dancing. On this same stage (south side of the Home Ec building) will be the Amazing Magic of Lance Gifford. And after Lance enjoy the antics and comedy of the Dueling Pianos. All three acts perform at least twice every afternoon on the Home Ec Stage.
Enjoy a magical day sitting under a shade tree in Boone County watching Mr. D’s Magic & Illusion Show daily. The ever popular Banana Derby is back with the monkey jockeys racing on dogs. You won’t want to miss the Elephant Encounters Show where you may get a chance to ride a real elephant. And back by popular demand ‘The Goose Man’ and his frolicking flock of featured friends (a dozen soda pop drinking costumed geese) will be roaming the grounds daily.
New this year performing in the horse and pony arenas Wednesday through Saturday will be “Percheron Thunder” which is a team of six beautiful majestic black Percheron draft horses being driven by Jason Goodman standing on and straddling the backs of the rear pair of horses as they gallop at high speed around the arena. Witness firsthand during this 30-minute show the inherent athleticism of these heavy horses and learn of their historical significance.
Other daily entertainment and free venues include a restored early 1900’s Boone County one room schoolhouse, the history filled Grange Museum, the Log Hoggers chainsaw wood sculpture competition, Magic Mike strolling magician, a 200 plus antique tractor display, the popular 4-H’s Wee Farm petting zoo and Alpine Bank’s Kid’s Days games at 10am Wednesday and Thursday in the Gazebo/Memorial Park area behind commercial building #3 where children under 12 can win trophies and other prizes competing in sack races, egg toss and other games. And all this is free with your paid admission.
You won’t want to miss the excitement of our giant midway put on by DRS Skinners’ Amusements out of Crystal Lake, Illinois. They’re always featuring new exciting thrill rides, along with an elaborate light show on their large Ferris wheel. The younger ones in the family will love their large and colorful kiddies’ ride-land. Take advantage of reduced carnival ride prices on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
Our headliner on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. in front of the grandstand this year will be officially announced on Tuesday, April 15th. All we can say now is that he’s a country music singer with two number one hits under his belt. He’s sold nearly 2 million singles and half million albums in the past three years. He just released the title single from his soon to be released third album. We’re told he puts on a dynamic show with a lot of energy.
Fifty years ago the Beatles invaded America…in 2014 they invade Boone County. On Wednesday evening in front of the grandstand the Chicago band “American English” will magically create the complete Beatles tribute performing songs from 1963 -1970 with precise attention to every detail including costumes, instruments and special effects. Step back in time and relive the 60’s with “American English”.
Friday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the south grandstand bleachers will be the exciting ATV Racing by Kickabuda promotions. Watch local drivers in a wide variety of classes race each other for the checkered flag. It’s fast! It’s furious! And it’s free!
New at 1:30 p.m. Friday in front of the grandstand watch for free “Mutton Bustin’ Ride-Off Qualifications”. What is Mutton Busting? It’s where young children attempt to ride sheep bareback for a few seconds in hopes of winning a huge trophy. The top ten qualifiers will get to compete in the “Mutton Bustin’ Finals” Friday evening at 7 p.m.. After the sheep come the bulls…
Friday evening brings out those tough cowboys from around the country riding those very mean bulls during our Next Level Pro Bull Riding Competition. You can even enjoy barrel racing competition before the bull riding finals. There are hilarious clowns, bright lights and loud music. Get ready to rumble! No Bull!
All day Thursday starting at 10 a.m. is the Truck and Tractor pulls going well into the evening with mini rods, super stock tractors, 4x4’s and semi’s. If it’s more crashes than pulls you want then come out Sunday for either the 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. Demolition Derby shows. Don’t get too close, the mud will be flying.
At 12 noon on Tuesday and Wednesday enjoy watching the trotters compete in several Harness Races each afternoon on the half mile track in front of the grandstand. There’s no charge for seat in the grandstand so pick your favorite and cheer them on. The soda is cold and shade feels good.
Wednesday at 5 p.m. you won’t want to miss the ever popular Antique Tractor Parade. Watch these restored beauties from days on the farm past. Deere, IH, Case, Farmall, Oliver, Massey Ferguson, Allis-Chalmers, plus many more will line up and strut their stuff in front of the grandstand. And it’s free.
And of course the whole six day affair gets started Tuesday evening when several local young ladies will be competing for the Miss Boone County Fair Queen title along with 20 other even younger girls vying for the ‘Little Miss’ title on Tuesday evening starting at 7 p.m.. It’s a Queen Pageant at its finest packed with entertainment and not to be missed. And it’s free! And get there early to get a seat!
As you can see we have six full days planned for you and your family. All our directors, superintendents, grounds crew, members from local service clubs and civic organizations, local citizens and the five hundred plus Grange members in Boone County have put in countless volunteer hours to bring you one of the best fairs and fairground parks in Illinois.
The Boone County Granges which have owned and operated the fair since 1957 have always had the policy of “making the fair bigger and better each year” which has given us the beautiful park we have today. A park now made up of 153 acres with a wide range of livestock barns and exhibit halls along with paved streets with plenty of free parking surrounding the grounds. A park that is busy nearly every weekend with all kinds of events from April 1st to Nov. 1st. Boone County now has a fair that consistently draws an average of 190,000 visitors making the Boone County Fair one of the top county fairs in Illinois. We’ve come a long way since that first fair on Route 76 in 1964. This will be our 51st fair at this location and we couldn’t be more proud and honored of the fair we are inviting you and your family to enjoy.
What is the Grange? The Grange, a.k.a. Patrons of Husbandry, is the oldest national agricultural organization. The National Grange, founded in 1867, has its headquarters in Washington D.C. in its own privately owned building a couple blocks from the White House. The Grange has evolved into a family community service organization with its roots in agriculture. There are 2100 local Grange chapters in the United States in 25 states with nearly 200,000 members. Want to join? Give us a call. We’d love to have you and your family be a part of our Grange family.
There are seven local chapters of the Grange in Boone County. There is Beaver Valley Grange, Big Thunder Grange, Capron Grange, County Line Grange, Flora Grange, Leroy Grange and Prairie Grange.
Members from each of these Granges make up the county (or Pomona Grange) which owns the fairground and elects the four executive officers of the Boone County Fair Association. The four officers are: Lyle Lee, President; Jack Ratcliffe, Vice-President; Chris Schmuggerow, Secretary; Dayle Paulson, Treasurer. Each Grange selects four members to be directors on the fair association board with the Pomona Grange having two directors on the board. Al Henninger (former Board President) is an Honorary Director.
The fair administration office located at gate 2 at the fairground is open Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week. The office phone number is (815) 544-2900. The fair website is www.boonecountyfair.com. Tickets for grandstand shows go on sale Saturday, July 12th at 8 a.m. at the ticket office at gate 1. If you have any questions we’ll be happy to help you any way we can. We want these six days of summer to be your best days of summer. See you at the fair!