Lake County Fair begins five-day run on Wednesday

The gates for the 86th annual Lake County Fair opened Wednesday, the renewal of a midsummer ritual that draws more than 80,000 each year to the center of the county.

The five-day event takes place on the southwest side of Grayslake (Peterson and Midlothian roads) and features many of the staples that have come to be associated with it over the decades, from livestock displays to motocross competitions to the Miss Lake County Fair Queen pageant on opening night.

But production manager John Maguire said there will be a number of new features, including a fireworks display to close out a daylong tribute to service personnel and veterans on Thursday.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had fireworks at the fair,” Maguire said. “I’d have to check with some of the old-timers here, but we certainly haven’t had it in recent years.”

A confirmed first-time event is a craft-beer festival on Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Tickets, which include admission to the fair, are available for $35 or $50, with the latter allowing for early samplings at 11:30 a.m. Maguire said a total of 20 different craft brews would be featured at the event.

Another new offering will be provided by an old pastime in Lake County on Saturday, when two rounds of professional lawn-mower races are held at the grandstand at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Maguire added that the rodeo returns on Friday night after a hiatus for several years.

“That’s by consumer demand — people wanted it back, he said.

Officials are crossing their fingers to see how the weather goes in 2014 after three days of rain and cool temperatures helped limit attendance to 83,585, down 9.7 percent from the 2012 total of 91,548.

Among the scheduled highlights and points of information for those planning on making the trip:

■ Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

■ Admission: $8 through Friday, $10 Saturday and Sunday for those age 13 and over; $5 daily for children age 6-12, seniors 65-over and members of an active-military family; and free for active-military members in uniform and children 5 and under.

On Thursday, the salute to the military will include free admission for all active-military members and veterans. A family pack for two adults and two children is available daily for $25. All admission sales are cash only.

■ Carnival rides: The midway opens at noon each day, with tickets offered for $1 and each ride costing a certain number of tickets. Also available are 22-ride tickets for $20, and all-day or partial-day wristbands ranging in price from $17 to $30 depending on day and time.

For more information, including a full schedule of live music and entertainment acts, visit www.lcfair.com.

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