Jackson County Fair A Week Of Fun Close To Home

In a quaint Iowa town, people from all over the state flock in to experience a week of unbridled joy. The Jackson County Fair is celebrating its 165th year. On East Quarry Street in Maquoketa, the aroma of carnival food, music pumping from popular bands and laughter of family bonding fills the air. Once exclusively an agricultural show highlighted by harness racing, the Fair has evolved into an experience of much more. While there is still a horse show and plenty of animals to interact with from the Millers Petting Zoo, it’s a week of jam-packed fun that’s as up close and personal as it gets in Eastern Iowa. “It’s a compact Fair, meaning you can see everything in a five-block radius,” says Lanny Simpson, who’s served as Jackson County Fair Manager for 14 years. “There’s a lot in a small amount of space.” Born and raised in Maquoketa, Simpson has vivid memories of the event. In high school, she remembers her class using a dunk tank to raise money for the senior prom. When she married and started a family, they’d bring their kids to the Jackson County Fair every year. Now, she gets to take the vision her community has and recreate the summer staple every year.
From America’s Got Talent magician and levitator Special Head, to a new Western comedy production called Tumbleweed Crossing, there’s a full slate of activities for 2019. The Jackson County Fair kicks off Sunday, July 21st with a dog show the first day. Tuesday is the Jackson County Fair parade, one of the longest in the state. That’s also the night that the County Fair Queen will be crowned. Military members get free admission on Wednesday to honor their service. Thursday is Kid’s Day with free face painting and cookie decorating. They also get to experience the petting zoo. At night, there are stock car races of nine different classes in front of the grandstand. Meanwhile, Friday is Rock and Roll Night featuring Hell’s Belles, who Rolling Stone magazine rated as the best AC/DC tribute band in the country. They’re followed by performances from Vince Neil of Motley Crue and Skin Kandy. For Country Music Night on Friday, the lineup is Kip Moore, High Valley, and North of 40. With 1,400 new grandstand seats added on this year, organizers believe your experience will be bigger and better than ever. “For $22, you can see Kip Moore and be only 20 feet away from him,” Simpson says. “That’s the great thing about this Fair, you aren’t in the nosebleeds where you can’t see their faces. They’re right there.”
Saturday at 5 p.m. is the Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search. Many of the past winners have represented the area in the Iowa State Fair. Finally, Sunday is Family Day with the Jackson County Car Show displaying vintage cars. There’s an antique show, plenty of carnival food and the popular Hug a Hog contest! “People have the wonderful ability to taste, smell and see all of the wonderful aspects of the Fair,” Simpson says. It wraps up Sunday with the Night of Destruction, which is exactly what the name suggests. It’s a night of ‘big boys with big toys’ including bus races and a car held together by chains being pushed and pulled in opposite directions. The vehicle-wheeling excitement continues with a roller derby for grandfather, father, and grandson teams, along with a back-seat driving competition. The night is topped off with trailer races, a soccer match using cars to ‘kick’ around a big-wire ball, and a women’s powder puff race. 
Deeply rooted in the Eastern Iowa community, the Jackson County Fair recognizes the people who’ve shaped it over the years. “We consider ourselves a Fair family,” says Simpson. “This year we’re honoring the Butterworth family who’ve been part of it for four generations. Families like that have not only helped make the Fair happen, they’ve been a big part of helping it grow… And we welcome you to our Fair like we welcome family.” If you’d like to reserve seats in the grandstand Friday through Sunday, July 26-28, you can do so by visiting eventbrite.com. You can also visit the Fair office.


Author: Kevin Walker

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