SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — The 2022 Illinois State Fair begins next week, on Thursday, Aug. 11, and WMBD is compiling a list of all the ways you can enjoy your time in the fairgrounds without breaking the bank.

Free activities every day

Dairy Products Building: All things dairy from all over Illinois. See the 600 lb. Butter Cow, take a selfie at the Undeniably Dairy Selfie Station, and answer trivia questions to earn dairy-themed prizes. All this plus a kids’ coloring book station, benches for relaxing, and dairy demonstrations are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Exposition Building: Come pose in the Selfie Gallery, catch a free show on the Expo Stage, and visit exhibits of all kinds. Even a booth from the U.S. Postal Service rounds out the multitude of free activities this building offers.

Conservation World: Family-friendly, nature-focused activities from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Take a picture with Smokey Bear, try archery, learn to fish, or even learn to tag a butterfly at this exhibit hosted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. From fish tanks to lumberjack shows, and mineral digs to pollinator habitats, fairgoers can learn the importance of conservation every day of the fair.

Agriculture Tent: Enjoy everything from free food to free farm demonstrations at the tent put on by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Enjoy free food samples at the Artisan’s Market, participate in crafts, and even get a caricature drawn or a balloon animal made. The AgVenture Kids Area also includes many ways to let kids play while learning about agriculture in Illinois. Daily entertainment includes farmer demonstrations, the LEGO Bee-Hive Build, the USDA Beagle Brigade, and more.

Agriculture Tours: The Illinois Department of Agriculture offers tours every day at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. beginning at the department’s tent off of Main Street and Central Ave. The tour takes visitors through the fair to discover the important role agriculture plays at the Illinois State Fair.

Looking for Lincoln: The Springfield scavenger hunt comes to the fairgrounds. Looking for Lincoln will have four tents, each with an opportunity to take a picture with “Flat Lincoln” and information about the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Lincoln himself will be traveling throughout the fair in his “Lincoln-mobile.” Take a picture if you spot him!

Artists and Makers of Illinois: First Lady MK Pritzker’s tent featuring local artists and innovators. Visitors will have the opportunity to paint, make pottery, weave, and more as the First Lady’s tent features demonstrations and hands-on art projects in a new partnership with the Illinois State Museum.

Sign the Plow: Sign a snowplow blade at the Illinois Department of Transportation’s tent. Fairgoers are encouraged to sign the 1,200 lb. blade and take pictures with it. Last year, the attraction was so popular that a second blade had to be brought in!

Fire Safety Tent: Learn to prevent fires with fun games and exhibits for all ages. Firefighting games, a fire pole, extrication demonstrations, and more will keep fairgoers of all ages entertained at this exhibit put on by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall. Fire personnel will be on hand to answer questions as well.

Illinois Fire Museum: Explore the history of the fire service. Visitors can view antique firefighting equipment and learn where the modern fire service got its start at this exhibit, open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vaccinations, Testing, & Oral Health Exams: The Illinois Department of Public Health will offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, as well as dental exams for children. IDPH wants to help families start the school year off right and is offering these free services at the IDPH booth at the fair. No appointment needed.

Free special events

Monday, Aug. 15: Play “The Not So Newlywed Game” and participate in the “Grandparent/Grandchild Contest” on Senior Day at the fair. Register for one or both games at the Illinois Building/Department on Aging’s booth.

Aug. 17 to Aug. 21: Visit the STEAM Expo to engage with innovation at this exposition of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math in the Orr Building. This free expo will showcase drone racing, e-sports, 3D printing, coding, robotics, dissection, and much more. Visit all the booths to get your very own 3D-printed Butter Cow!

Saturday, Aug. 20: Free children’s activities and entertainment at the Park Play Station. Sharpie tie-dye, craft projects, and science experiments will be available at the Pavilion near the Village of Cultures Stage from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free entertainment–dancers, singers, and even zoo animals–will play from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on the Village of Cultures Stage.

Sunday, Aug. 21: LEGO Contest at the IL State Fair in the Expo Building. Kids ages 5 to 12 can register to participate in this free competition where their LEGO creations will be judged for prizes. LEGO kits will be provided. Registration begins at 10 a.m., the competition begins at 10:30 a.m., and judging will take place at 11 a.m.

Free admission deals

Each day of the fair has a theme, and some days offer free admission for specific groups.

Sunday, Aug. 14: Veterans and Gold Star Families Day. Veterans and their families are admitted to the grounds for free with proper identification.

Monday, Aug. 15: Senior and Scout Day. Fairgoers ages 60 and above, as well as scouts in uniform, are admitted to the fairgrounds for free.

Friday, Aug. 19: First Responder Day. All police officers, firefighters and EMTs who show their badge at the gate are admitted to the fair for free.

Kids 12 and under are admitted to the fair for free every day of the fair!