County fairs are more than blue ribbons, midways and lemonade shake-ups.
“If you grew up on a farm, you know the importance of a county fair,” says Charlyn Fargo, Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs. “From livestock to entertainment, there’s something for everybody.”
Industry experts and county fair board members share five other reasons why county fairs matter:
1. Jobs. Fargo says county fairs support 1,000 jobs across the state of Illinois, including full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.
2. Revenue. County fairs contribute about $90 million to the state’s economy each year.
3. Local business support. “When people go to fairs, they support local businesses, hotels and restaurants,” says Warren Goetsch, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Between lodging, services, food and retail expenditures, county fairs generate up to $170 million in local fair-related spending.
4. Relationships. “There are people that I only see at the fair, even though we live in the same area,” says Katie Pratt, Lee County Fair board member. County fairs give community members a chance to visit with friends and relax with a glass of lemonade, a funnel cake or an elephant ear. “There’s a friendly face every time you turn around.”
5. Agricultural advocacy. “County fairs are a great opportunity for us in ag to have a platform to share what we do,” Pratt says, adding that conversations between 4-H members and visitors happen all the time.
“County fairs are a place like no other,” Fargo says. “We’re able to teach our urban neighbors what ag is and how important it is through hands-on experiences.”
Want to know more about Illinois county fairs? Check out the infographic below.