Story and Photos by Julie Gerke
The Morgan County Fair is “all for the kids” — just ask member of the fair board’s executive committee, who have worked for months with a bevy of fair board members, volunteers and community residents to make sure the 2023 Morgan County Fair is the best ever.
Gates opened Tuesday, July 11 for the fair’s seven-day run, which ends July 17 with the annual sale of champions where the best of the best livestock winners are sold, with proceeds going to the young handlers of cows, pigs, rabbits, poultry, sheep and goats.
However, before then, kids — and everyone else — can enjoy music, contests, games, food, pageants and a carnival, as well as walk through livestock barns and exhibit spaces to learn about animals, baked goods, stitchery, woodworking, artwork, photography and more.
The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, with a chance of scattered storms throughout mid-week.
Morgan County Fair Board President Gary Hadden said, “We take a huge amount of pride in what we do. … 4-Hers are the focus. It’s all for the kids.” Those kids not only work on their exhibits and have fun, but also learn about hard work, time management and responsibility.
The fair is managed and put on by the Morgan County Agricultural Fair Association, a nonprofit group of volunteers led by Hadden, first vice president David McQueen, second vice president Darin Smith, secretary Olivia Rahe and treasurer Keith Fricke, and 35 board members, many of whom have been on the board for decades.
The executive committee also applauded volunteers from a number of local fraternal and social groups and local first responders who ensure safety all week.
The renovated pavilion, just east of the grandstand building, will have smaller bands and games like singo to keep people entertained as they take advantage of a wide array of food and drink. (Singo is played like bingo, but the caller provides a lyric and savvy players mark the winning song name on their cards.) Other buildings have upgraded electrical service and improved bathrooms.
A new carnival provider from Lexington, Kentucky, will have traditional favorites, but also introduce a mechanical bull. For fans of real bulls, organizers expect at least 125 head of cattle in show rings, more than 300 hogs, 100 goats and up to 250 sheep. Horse shows are also on tap.
The Morgan County Fair’s first-ever LEGO contests will be July 14-15 in the merchant building, with the grand prize winner headed to the Illinois State Fair. Register at builderevents.com.
Grandstand entertainment includes a talent contest and a royalty pageant on July 11, plus a rodeo on July 12. Remaining grandstand entertainment includes a Power Wheels derby and demolition derby, July 13; Tyler Hubbard with Drew Baldridge, July 14; Lee Brice with Lewis Brice, July 15; and truck and tractor pulls, July 16.
Daily gate entry is $5, and on-site parking is free. Parking also is available along adjoining streets.
Morgan County Fair
When: July 11-17
Where: Morgan County Fairgrounds
110 N. Westgate Ave., Jacksonville
Hours: Gates open 8 a.m. daily
Gate admission Tue.-Sat.: $5; free under 6;
Season pass – $15; Sun – free
July 11: Talent contest – 5 p.m
Pageant – 7 p.m.
July 12: Rodeo – 7 p.m.
July 13: Power Wheels derby- 6:30-7 p.m.
Demolition derby – 7 p.m.
July 14: Tyler Hubbard with Drew Baldridge – 7:30 p.m.
July 15: Lee Brice with Lewis Brice – 7:30 p.m.
July 16: Truck and tractor pulls – 4 p.m.
*Grandstand events require separate admission.
Visit themorgancountyfair.com for fees.
Full schedule: themorgancountyfair.com