Chesney Guest Column: Nostalgic American Fun as County Fair Season hits the Heartland

I LOVE a good County Fair! Nothing screams Summer in the Heartland more than this nostalgic American pastime.

Northwest Illinois values will again be on full display through the tractor pulls, the demolition derbies, the hometown enjoyment of musical acts and displays of local excellence in desserts, fruits and vegetables and livestock and show animals. The subtle aroma of manure covered by the overpowering smell of deep-fried delights. The lights of carnival rides reflecting in the eyes of little ones eager to win a “major prize” in this year’s carnival games of chance and ring tosses. The entire experience is intoxicating for the young and old alike.

I am already salivating for my first elephant ear and yearn to wash it down with a sweet, ice-cold lemonade shakeup. Don’t judge the empty calories too harshly considering the need for relief from the hot summer sun. Whether enjoying a musical act after a porkchop sandwich or perusing the exhibitors after a corndog, there is something for everyone at their local county fair.

If you are looking to gain some hope about the next generation, let me recommend you check out the Junior Livestock Auction at the upcoming Stephenson County Fair. You’ll find plenty of young people with great work ethics and calloused hands who have toiled hard all year to raise animals that are worthy of the judgment of their peers in this competitive exhibition.

The car races, the tractor shows, and the exhibition barns all showcase excellence from our own backyards. Cultural pride and American heritage are still preserved through these annual events, many of which are beleaguered by great competition for the attention of the modern family. However, in a year when we crave a sense of “normalcy” with nods to shared experiences of “community pride from the past”, we need to get out and enjoy our county fairs more than ever.

We need to be reminded of the humble pride that comes with recognizing excellence and accomplishment- whether in the exhibition barns, from the grandstands, or applauding a local musical act or stage show. This is what we’ve missed over the past year and a half of lockdown.

I am proud of what I see at our County Fairs. Work ethic, patriotism, community pride, touting our agricultural heritage and setting the standard for local entertainment events are all on full display. A list of every County Fair in the State is available at my legislative website at I encourage you to find at least one nearby and enjoy some of this nostalgic American fun for yourself.