It's all about the fair in Family Picks

It's all about the fair in Family Picks

It's a big weekend in Central Illinois, with the Illinois State Fair opening in Springfield and several other festivals scheduled locally. Not to mention some kid-friendly theater, Champaign-Urbana Days and (gasp) back-to-school celebrations. Enjoy your freedom while it lasts, kiddos!

Meet me at the fair: Illinois State Fair, daily through Aug. 21, Illinois State Fairgrounds, 801 Sangamon Ave. Springfield. Admission charge.

Besides the carnival rides, livestock shows, 4-H exhibits, harness racing and Grandstand events, the fair offers a diverse array of activities in its Conservation World, Happy Hollow jungle exhibits, Ethnic Store and other areas. Highlights include a rock-climbing wall, canoe rides, "extreme trampoline," a  fishing pond, exhibits on sustainability and the "Amazing rainforest," a high-dive show, aerial show, meat loaf contest, and of course, the world-famous Butter Cow.

A daily Kids Corner entertains your children with clowns, folk music, storytelling, face-painting and puppet shows.

Friday's Opening Day is County Fair and Horse-Racing Day, with more than 70 county fair queens and 105 fairs and expositions from across the state represented. It is also the first of six days of harness racing at the fair's one-mile dirt track, which is the fastest in the world. Saturday is local officials' day, and Sunday is Veterans Day, with free admission to the grounds for veterans and their families and a veterans parade.

Family Day is next weekend, Saturday, Aug. 21, with a special $2 admission to the fairgrounds.

General admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 12 and senior citizens, and free for ages 5 and under.  Vehicle parking is $7 a day, and you can also buy a coupon book with 10 admissions for $35 ($15 for children). Carnival rides are extra, though you can buy a $25 bracelet  for unlimited rides.

Directions: Take Interstate 72 west until it merges with I-55 north at Springfield. Take exit 100B off I-55, the Sangamon Avenue exit. Follow that 2-3 miles to Fairgrounds.

For information: Visit

Georgetown County Fair: Continues Friday and Saturday, 413 N. Seminary, Georgetown. Admission charge.
Free entertainment, fair food, exhibits, livestock, carnival rides, grandstand attractions and more. Commercial buildings open 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. Family highlights on Saturday include a llama show at 9 a.m., pedal tractor pull at 1:30 p.m., and Kiddie Day at the carnival with wristbands from 1 to 5 p.m.

Gate admission is $3.

For information: Call 474-9450, 662-6415 or visit

Sprouts at the Market: 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Market at the Square, Lincoln Square Mall parking lot, downtown Urbana. Free.

Children ages 3 to 8 can learn about fresh produce, local farms and nutrition at this series of free events throughout the summer. On Saturday, participants will taste a variety of corn products, some donated by market vendors. Nutrition information, or “Sprouts facts,” will also be available at each table.

For information: Call 384-2319 or visit this blog post

Back to school: Crisis Nursery Back-to-School Celebration, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., 1309 W. Hill St., U. Free.

Celebrate the end of summer and gear up to go back to school! This event for the entire community features fun activities and games for the whole family. Free school supplies will be distributed while supplies last.

For information: Call 337-2730 or visit the Crisis Nursery website
‘Cheeseburgers and Fun’: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Vermilion County Conservation District’s Bunker Hill Historic Area at Kennekuk County Park, northwest of Danville. Free.

Fun for the whole family Events include displays at the Bunker Hill Historic area, a chainsaw carving demonstration, the annual Bunker Hill Run Car and Tractor Show with antique cars and custom cars and tractors, door prizes and 50/50 raffles. Food vendors will be available all day, and foundation directors will be selling their cheeseburgers starting at 4 p.m.

The musical lineup features the Big Creek Guitar Band from 2 to 4 p.m.; Ryan Ideus and the Feudin’ Hillbillys, 5 to 7 p.m.; Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets, 8 to 10 p.m. (coolers allowed).

Proceeds benefit the conservation district’s foundation and future environmental education projects.

For information: Call 442-1691 or 662-2142

Champaign-Urbana Days: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Douglass Park, Champaign. Free.

Each year, hundreds of people, you and old, come together to celebrate family and reunite in Douglass Park. This event offers live entertainment, great food, children’s activities and a senior citizen luncheon.

For information: Call 398-2550 or visit

Olympic Brain Games: 2 to 2:45 p.m. Saturday, Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., U. Free.

What do neurons and synapses have to do with the Olympics? Come to the Olympic Brain Games to find out when we test our brain and body strength with games silly and serious. For children ages 5 and up.

For information: Call 367-4069 or visit

Weekend Wizard: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, 346 N. Neil St., C. Free with museum membership.

Grab your wizard hat and a friend to make, create and collaborate on “Do It Yourself” projects and science experiments.

For information: Call 352-5895 or visit

Streetfest: Champaign Park District Streetfest, 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, downtown Champaign.

Your kids might like the early show by ‘80s cover band “The Brat Pack” from 7-9 p.m. Autumn Zero will play from 10 p.m. 'til midnight.

For information: Call 398-2550 or visit

A bad day: ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,’ Children’s Theatre Series, continues 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, ; Little Theatre on the Square, 16 E. Harrison St., Sullivan.

Judith Viorst’s classic story is recreated as a musical. From the moment he wakes up with gum in his hair, things just don’t go Alexander’s way.  No wonder he wants to move to Australia, where everything is upside down. Tickets are $11.45.

For information: Call 728-7375 or visit

Oh, we've got trouble: ‘The Music Man,' Champaign Urbana Theatre Company, continues 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Parkland College Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C.

This Tony Award-winning musical features con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk before skipping town with the cash. But then he falls in love with Marian the Librarian in River City, Iowa.... Tickets are $8 to $16.

For information: Call 344-3884 or visit

That coat: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” continues 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Little Theatre on the Square, 16 E. Harrison St., Sullivan.

The classic musical is based on a story from the Old Testament about Joseph and his coat of many colors. Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it features songs of varied styles and is appealing for the whole family. Tickets are $33.40 to $35.50.

For information: Call 728-7375 or visit

Coming soon:

Neighborhood Nights: Urbana Park District concert series,  6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 17, Meadowbrook PrairiePlay, Urbana. Free,

This week’s concert features The Surreal Deal. Free popcorn and lemonade, games and activities are provided. Get a close-up look at  Urbana city vehicles, too. Bring blankets and lawn chairs.

For information: Call the hotline, 367-9575, or 367-1544 or visit


Check the Are We There Yet? blog every Friday for upcoming family friendly events, pulled from our News-Gazette online calendar, e3 magazine and other sources. To submit an item, e-mail me at, or use the calendar on the News-Gazette home page,


Visitors to the Illinois State Fair buy mini donuts from the Donut Family stand at the Illinois State Fair in 2008.  Seth Perlman/AP

Tammi Smith of Champaign and her son, John Smith, look at tomatoes at a farmer's market in 2005. Robert K. O'Daniell/The News-Gazette

The Drum and Bugle Corps of the former Urban League of Champaign County marches down Columbia Avenue in Champaign at the 2002 Champaign-Urbana Days celebration at Douglass Park. Vanda Bidwell/The News-Gazette

Theater photos from this website


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