If you're interested in places to go, people to see, and things to do this summer, the county fairs of the Sauk Valley are right up your alley.
County fair season begins Thursday, the first day of the Lee County 4-H Fair and Junior Show.
The place to go is the Lee County Fairgrounds, rural Amboy; the people to see are 4-H members, their families and supporters, and the public at large; and things to do include tractor and truck pulls, dirt drags and mud bogs, 4-H exhibits and judging, a carnival, and more.
For 5 weeks afterward, five more fairs are on tap across the region.
The Ogle County Fair runs July 30-Aug. 3 at the fairgrounds near Oregon, followed by the Carroll County Fair, which runs Aug. 5-9 near Milledgeville. Then comes the Whiteside County Fair, Aug. 12-16 in Morrison.
After that, the Bureau County Fair takes place Aug. 20-24 in Princeton, and then the Tri-County Fair follows on Labor Day weekend (Aug. 29-Sept. 1) in Mendota (Tri-County, as in LaSalle, Lee and Bureau).
Some people you'll see at fairs this year include singer Tracy Lawrence on Aug. 8 at the Carroll County Fair and the Beach Boys on Aug. 21 at the Bureau County Fair.
Like to watch cowboys rope cattle? The Big Hat Rodeo on Aug. 1 at the Ogle County Fair is for you.
Enjoy young, talented singing groups? Home Free will perform on Aug. 13 at the Whiteside County Fair.
Along with fair food, judging, and exhibits, fairs are a traditional way to connect with the agricultural community, reconnect with old friends, and make new ones.
And you never know who might pop in. In 2011, fairgoers in Morrison were surprised to see President Barack Obama touring the grounds.
The county fair as an institution has been around for decades. Fairs in Oregon and Princeton have existed about 160 years. Other fairs, such as Carroll's and Mendota's, started after World War II.
Their existence is not guaranteed. Just 4 years ago, many fairs were financially hurting because of severe state budget cuts. Continued public support can help turn the tide.
To our way of thinking, for places to go, people to see, and things to do in the Sauk Valley, it's hard to beat a county fair.