BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s the last few weeks of summer before school returns to session, and county fairs are making a comeback this year.
The annual McLean County Fair started Tuesday and continues throughout the weekend with rides, food and the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest 4-H Fair”.
Friday, the fairgrounds opened at 6 a.m. and closed at 9 p.m. with the fair ending at 11 p.m.
While the fair features its fried tasty foods, fun carnival rides and grandstand entertainment, organizers said this year, fairgoers can walk away with even more.
Fair manager Mike Swartz said people are glad to be back out having a good time.
“We’ve seen a good attendance. We’ve heard that a lot of fairs and festivals throughout Central Illinois have done real well, and ours has done the same,” Swartz said.
Swartz said people can expect familiar foods and rides but in addition to the fun, the fair is offering free, walk-in vaccinations in partnership with the McLean County Health Department.
“We made incentives for them so if they come out, pay their admission to get in, they get their vaccine, we automatically give them two free tickets of their choice for carnival rides for the day or grandstand acts that are remaining each night,” Swartz said.
For the last 16 months, the fairground facilities have been utilized for drive-thru COVID-19 testing. Swartz said due to the virus, many fairs, including McLean County’s, had to cancel or scale back its events.
“Last year we had a private livestock show, then we had a food-fest. We normally have 17 food vendors. Last year we had seven and were able to host about 400 people,” Swartz said.
No fair or scaled back fairs meant limited ability for entertainers, like Mary Macaroni, to do what they love.
“I was able to do some things virtually, but when you’re a performer, it’s best to be in-person, [and] feel things organically,” Macaroni said.
Macaroni is a full-time children’s entertainer and said coming to the McLean County Fair is one of the highlights of her job. For her, the crowds are a return to normalcy.
“It’s great. It’s just great to be back and see all the people and hear the kids laughing,” Macaroni said.
The county fair is also home to its self-proclaimed “World’s Largest 4-H fair” where 4-H club members compete and show off cattle, livestock, rabbits and other animals.
Gary Mohr is a retired superintendent of rabbits, but still volunteers every summer with the 4-H fair. He said it’s great to see the children back out again.
“The kids are glad to be back at it and they’re so good to work with and you can get them to do just about anything you need done,” Mohr said.
There is still time to attend the fair- it’s open Saturday from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Sunday from Noon until 10 p.m. The gates close at 9 p.m.
Vaccines will be offered again on Saturday from 1-7 p.m.
For more information on prices, grandstand show tickets and all things McLean County Fair, check out its website.