Old-Fashioned Fun! Best State & County Fairs

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Elephant ears. Carnival rides. Prize-winning pigs. Ice cream cones the size of your head. Yep, it’s state and county fair time. We dug up the most family-friendly fairs happening in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan so you can plan a road trip to remember. Some of these aren’t scheduled until August, but we wanted to give you a running start on planning your blue ribbon adventure.

ionia-free-fairphoto: courtesy of Ionia State Fair

Ionia Free Fair – Ionia, Michigan
This free fair has a little bit of everything — circus acts, a wild animal exhibit, tractor pulls, monster trucks, and a classic car show. That’s not to mention the fantastic Kids Day on Tuesday, July 17, featuring a giveaway where your kid could be the lucky winner of a bike, face painting, balloon animals and special guests. Feeling especially adventurous? Bring your tent for a family campout.

Held July 12-21
Admission: Prices vary by activity, check website for details
317 Dexter St.
Ionia, Michigan
Online: ioniafreefair.com

DuPage County Fair – Wheaton, Illinois
The DuPage County Fair has been around for more than 6 decades, but it’s only getting better with age. After all, what other fair offers community service projects like the Pillowcase Challenge, at which fair-goers can donate pillowcases that have been sewn from colorful fabrics to be donated to chemo patients? There’s also plenty to see and do, including live music, a rodeo, demolition derbies and so much more.

Held July 25-29, 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Admission: $10/adults, $4/ages 3-12, free for ages 2 & under
2015 Manchester Rd.
Online: dupagecountyfair.org

county-fair-generalphoto: wlashbrook via Flickr

Ozaukee County Fair – Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Make a break for America’s Dairyland, which features one of the last free fairs in the Midwest. While there’s no gate entrance fee, they charge for some things like rides, shows and food, so bring cash. You’ll have a blast meeting animals at the petting zoo, going for a whirl on thrill rides, listening to live music, watching the demolition derby, monster trucks and tractor pull, playing bingo and seeing magic shows. There’s even a cute PowerWheels Demolition Derby for kids on August 5. Oh, did we mention the chainsaw carving demos? If you have the energy, stay until dusk on August 1, for a spectacular fireworks display.

Held August 1-5
Hours: Wed., noon-midnight; Thurs.-Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight; Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Admission: Free; varying fees for special events
W67 N866 Washington Ave.
Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Online: ozaukeecountyfair.com

Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis
Two words: cream puffs. Our neighbors up north host an annual state fair that’s not to be missed and the sweet treats are always a highlight. Once you’ve indulged, check out Spincity (home base for rides and attractions for kids of all ages), the historic exposition center and livestock competitions. Go on special savings days like Kohl’s Family Value Day on Monday, August 6, when adults are only $5 and kids are free. Pair that with the Kohl’s Activity Zone where kids can enjoy the Building Blocks Program that provides developmental services and equipment for children of all abilities, and the Wild Theater that has conservation-based shows in collaboration with the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.

Held August 2-12
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight; Final Sun., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Admission: $14/adults; $8/ages 6-11 & Military/Veterans with ID; free for ages 5 & under
640 S. 84th St.
West Allis, Wisconsin
Online: wistatefair.com

lake-county-fairphoto: Jerry Lipski / courtesy of Lake County Fair

Lake County Fair – Crown Point, Indiana
Originally, this fair was all about agricultural bragging rights — a who’s-who of the biggest and best in giant veggies and strong horses. These days, while the Lake County Fair still celebrates many of those achievements, fortunately for parents, there are also family-friendly carnival rides, pie and hot-dog eating contests, a petting zoo, pig races, a milking parlor, a fishing pond, fireworks, musical entertainment and so much more. Pepsi Family Day is Tuesday, August 8, when they will host special events.

Held August 3-12, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Admission: $5/adults; $2/ages 9-12; free for ages 8 & under; Parking $5; Admission & parking is free before 3 p.m. on Mon.-Thurs.
889 S. Court St.
Crown Point, Indiana
Online: lake-county-fair.com

Illinois State Fair – Springfield
This fair would make the former POTUS proud. We love this shindig for its theme days, including Horse Racing Day on August 11, when the first of six days of harness racing at the fair’s one-mile dirt track kicks off; Kids Day on August 12, which will feature special programming aimed at educating and entertaining kids; and Family Day on August 20 when admission is only $3 per person. You’ll also love the concerts on the free stage, the Kids Korner (open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily) and free activities like face painting and a tiny tots play area. Did we mention the diaper changing/nursing area? Oh, and cow milking. It’s a state fair, after all.  Come hungry so you can indulge in Ethnic Village, where the cuisines of 15 different nationalities are represented.

Held August 9-19, 7 a.m.-midnight
Admission: $10/adults; free for 12 & under; $5 for parking; check the schedule for special discount days
801 E. Sangamon Ave.
Springfield, Illinois
Online: illinois.gov

What is your favorite state or county fair? Let us know in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers & Jo Aaron