WOODSTOCK – Less than a week before the county fair was scheduled to open, Aneida McDermott spread mulch in a 5-foot-by-10-foot fairgrounds garden. The mulch went below the sprouting plants that included lavender Joe-Pye weed, growing next to green artemisia.
McDermott, of Crystal Lake, is one of the master gardeners who helped spruce up the McHenry County Fairgrounds.
"I help people who are afraid of the plant world," McDermott said.
The 62nd annual McHenry County Fair, which runs through Sunday, has a theme of "Come See What's Growing at the Fair."
There are small gardens throughout the fairgrounds. Strawberries, raspberries and grapes are growing, and there's the beginning of an apple orchard.
"We've done a lot of improvements with our garden displays," board member Tom Linneman said. "We're doing a garden display contest, decorating some of our new planters we have around our buildings. We also have a garden area [where] people can come out and enjoy what our master gardeners in the county have planted for us."
Among the new things this year is the Milk-A-Cow booth hosted by the Huntley Heartlanders 4-H Club. People will be able to experience milking a cow from 3 to 6 p.m today, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Milk-A-Cow booth.
Dan Linneman, a public relations intern for the county fair, said community members previously have asked how to milk a cow when they went through the livestock portion of the fair.
"It's something farmers thought of and would be a good experience," Dan Linneman said.
Farmers wanted to give a chance to show urban families where milk comes from, Tom Linneman said. "It doesn't just come from Jewel or a local grocery store."
During the fair, there will be a community showcase tent this year, where there will be K-9 demonstrations, accordion player performances, violin players, singing, martial arts, educational programs, dancing, puppet shows, and a mother-daughter look-alike contest.
"We thought there was a great need for a lot of small groups. Karate groups, dance groups are always looking for a platform to perform their talents and have their families see them," Tom Linneman said.
Organizers this year added an antique tractor pull contest, to go along with two days of tractor pulls.
"It's just like a regular tractor pull," Tom Linneman said. "They just use a little bit of a smaller sled and a little less weight. It's a little slower. It's great entertainment for our guests to come and see."
Last week, organizers from the 4-H club put up signs for their different competition categories to prepare for contest judging on Monday and Tuesday.
More than 500 youngsters ages 8 to 19 are expected to participate in more than 100 categories. Projects include photography, sewing, foods and computers.
The number of participants is remaining stable, said Kelly Sadowski, who works with 4H.
"We're maintaining, which is pretty good in today's economy and environment," Sadowski said. "Four-H is an intensive youth program. It requires family commitment."
Rides were set up on Monday and Tuesday, and the livestock arrived on Tuesday.
The entertainment tent this year will include karaoke on Wednesday; Grelvis, an Elvis Presley impersonator, on Thursday; Rob Webster and the Modern Day Romeos on Friday; Alex and The Allstars and the Kimberly Wolff Band on Saturday; and the Jenae Cherry Band on Sunday.
Organizers expect between 50,000 and 60,000 people to come to the fair this year.
To help promote the fair this year, organizers started a Facebook page. Organizers answered questions about this year's fair, had drawings for free tickets, and promoted events within the fair.
"We went to do more grassroots marketing, getting our name out there and talking to people," Dan Linneman said. "With the economy the way it is, it's a free way to access more people."
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FAIR FACTSWHAT: McHenry County FairWHEN: through Sunday. The midway opens at 1 p.m. Aug. 4 and 5, and at noon Aug. 6 and 7. WHERE: 1050 Country Club Road in Woodstock, about a quarter-mile east of Route 47.COST: Daily Pass for adults is $6. Season pass: $15. Children 8 to 12: $3 Children 7 years old and younger are admitted free. Senior citizens 65 and older: $3, Wristband sales are from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 4-5 for $15. At all other times, ride tickets will cost $1 each. Most rides will require two to four tickets per rider.
Aug. 4 • Free bingo at noon at the entertainment pavilion. • Grelvis (Elvis impersonator) and karaoke from 5 to 10 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion. • Mother/Daughter Look-a-Like Contest at the community showcase tent. • 21-Tractor Salute to Veterans at 6:30 p.m. at the grandstands. • Antique tractor pulls at 8 p.m. at the grandstands.
Aug. 5 • Rob Webster performance at 5 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion. • Truck and Tractor Pulls and Combine Demo Derby at 6 p.m. at the grandstand. ($5 admission) • Modern Day Romeos from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion.
Aug. 6 • Truck and Tractor pulls at noon at the grandstands. • 4-H Livestock auction at noon at the Hansen Pavilion. • Truck and Tractor pulls at 6 p.m. at the grandstands. ($5 admission) • Alex and The Allstars at 6 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion. • The Kimberly Wolff Band at 9 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion.
Aug. 7 • Jenae Cherry Band at 2 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion. • Demolition Derby at 3:30 p.m. at the grandstands. ($7 admission)