Two years ago, a record-setting 50,400 smiling faces filled the Jackson County Fairgrounds.
Fair manager Lanny Simpson and crew missed all those smiling faces last year, when the fair board ultimately decided to cancel the fair to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Jackson County 4-H and FFA still hosted livestock shows and indoor exhibits in 2020 with heightened health precautions, but there were no carnival rides, games, fair food, vendors, and other routine fair happenings.
While the fair has a bit of a new look this year, Simpson remains optimistic that all those smiling faces will return in droves, filling the fairgrounds with laughter and fun again in 2021.
The rides, games, food, livestock, music, new experiences and favorite traditions return to the fairgrounds in Maquoketa July 25-Aug. 1.
“There’s going to be a whole new look to the fair this year,” Simpson said.
A new horse arena put into use last year opened space near the west entrance to the grounds. That’s where the implements will now set up. Food vendors and a new ticket booth for two nights of concerts and Night of Destruction will be in that area as well.
Antique and new tractors will find a home together this year on the grounds, along with various entertaining demonstrations in front of Pearson.
Evans United brings the carnival rides and midway to the fairgrounds, with thrills, chills, and games of skills.
The fair unofficially kicks off Sunday, July 25, with the 4-H Fun Run, pancake breakfast fundraiser, announcement of the grand marshal and fair family, introduction of the eight fair queen candidates, 4-H recital, and 4-H Share the Fun.
Everyone is admitted free to the grounds on Tuesday, a throwback to decades ago, and enjoy a sneak peek at some of the daily attractions.
The 6 p.m. fair parade, which in 2018 moved to Tuesday, will again travel north on Main Street before turning east on Quarry Street, then winding around the track in front of the grandstand.
Fairgoers can take part in six jam-packed nights of entertainment in front of the grandstand.
After the fair parade ends in front of the grandstand, watch as the 2021 fair queen is crowned, then stick around for the 4-H Ag Olympics.
Power Wheels pulls start at 5 p.m. Wednesday, giving kids 10 and younger the chance to bring in their favorite power wheels or borrowing one on the grounds to show just how much their machines can haul.
Then adults command the action for the truck and tractor pull at 6 p.m.
Power Wheels races start at 5 p.m. Thursday, with area kids again taking center stage as they race their machines around the track.
Stock car races follow at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Back-to-back nights of live rock and country music take center stage on Friday and Saturday.
The Spazmatics, who have entertained Maquoketa crowds at Fireball in recent years, will perform for 90 minutes July 30 night at 7 p.m. “They’re a bunch of geeky-looking soft rockers,” Simpson described with a laugh.
That’ll be followed up by Snake Oil at 9 p.m. “You’re going to think that Ozzy Osbourne … that Janis Joplin … that Night Ranger and more are up on that stage,” Simpson said.
Reserve grandstand seats for Friday cost $5. Party pit tickets for the space in front of the stage cost $20 each.
Local band Jammer provides the nightcap at 10 p.m. in Volunteer Hall.
Known for songs such as “Trashy Women” and “Jesus and Mama,” country band Confederate Railroad takes the stage Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
A Nashville icon for more than two decades, Trace Adkins headlines Saturday night’s show. Adkins first saw radio success with the song “Every Light in the House is On” in 1996. Some of his other hits include “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Chrome,” “Then They Do,” “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
Reserve grandstand seats for July 31 cost $10 each. Party pit tickets for the space in front of the stage cost $40 each.
There’s a Power Wheels demonstration in front of the grandstand Sunday, followed by the ever-popular Night of Destruction, featuring trailer races, appliance races, the long jump, and more. Reserve tickets for Sunday cost $10 each.
Regional country band Jarrod Hogan South 55 plays the nightcap at 10:30 in Volunteer Hall.
Purchase grandstand tickets online at Eventbrite.com. Fairgoers will be able to select their seats from those that are available. Also, tickets are available at the fair office.
Tickets purchased for the 2020 shows will be honored.
Opportunities for daily entertainment abound in all areas of the fairgrounds.
Families can watch as performers literally fly from one side of the performing area to another with Ninja Experience. Youths may even be able to participate.
Walk near the dairy barn toward Boyer Hall and observe the delicate work of Mobile Glass Studio. Fairgoers can watch works of art being created as the artist provides live demonstrations with a mobile glass furnace and learn about the craft.
New and old vendors will line the path behind Pearson to the Family Fun Area. “We’re having our regular food vendors and adding more,” Simpson said. “We’re expecting a lot more people and want to keep the lines short.”
Think you know agriculture? Youths will be invited to play FARMily Feud, which pits kids against kids to answer the most ag-related questions.
Kids and families will laugh while competing and receiving positive reinforcement during the Kids Celebration in the Family Fun Area.
Miller Petting Zoo returns to the fair with chickens, goats, donkeys, ducks, calves and more.
The Jackson County Fair brings the Royal White Tiger Discovery to fairgoers. For $3, visitors can view the display of white tigers and learn more about them, watch them as they train, etc.
Chris Short Puppets brings marionettes back to the grounds inside Pearson to entertain people of all ages.
There’s also the traditional Bill Hayes Memorial Tractor Show and the Duane Hanson Memorial Car Show.
Don’t forget to watch area youths compete during the Bill Riley Talent Show at 5 p.m. July 27 inside Pearson, as well as 4-H/FFA livestock shows every day.
Everyone is admitted free on Tuesday.
General admission for people 13 and older will cost $12 each day. Fun cards, which cover the cost of admission for all five days of the fair, cost $35 through July 26, $40 through July 27. These are the same prices as last year.
On Wednesday, military veterans will be admitted for $7 if they show their military ID. On Thursday, kids 16 and younger will get in free until 5 p.m. On Friday, ages 65 and older are admitted for $7 until 5 p.m.
JC Fair Schedule
Sunday, July 25
8 a.m. Open Class Western Horse Show
8 a.m. 4-H Pancake Fun Run
8 a.m. 4-H Endowment Pancake Breakfast
9:30 a.m. Parade grand marshal introduction
9:45 a.m. Fair Family introduction
10 a.m. Queen candidate introductions
10:30 4-H Music Recital
Noon 4-H Share the Fun
1 p.m. Education presentations (museum)
Tuesday, July 27
9 a.m. Dog show
5 p.m.-9 p.m. Exhibits open inside Pearson
6 p.m. Carnival opens
6 p.m. Parade
After parade: Queen crowning (grandstand)
After crowning: 4-H Farm Olympics, (grandstand)
Wednesday, July 28
8 a.m. Horse Show
1 p.m. Pet Show
2 p.m. Clover Kids Pet Show
2 p.m. Clover Ridge Military Celebration
5 p.m. Power Wheels Pull
6 p.m. Carnival opens
6 p.m. Truck and Tractor Pull (grandstand)
6 p.m. Clover Kids Lamb & Kid Show
7:30 p.m. Clothing Event Program
Thursday, July 29
8 a.m. Sheep Show
After sheep: Goat Show
12-5 p.m. Carnival ride discounts
1 p.m. Working Exhibits
2-4 p.m. Kids Pedal Pull
2 p.m. Cookie decorating
5 p.m. Swine Show
6 p.m. Power Wheels Race (grandstand)
6:30 p.m. Stock car racing (grandstand)
Friday, July 30
9 a.m. Dairy Show
12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Crestridge Bingo
1 p.m. Bucket Bottle Calf Show
2 p.m. Chicken Washing
3 p.m. Treats for Seniors
3 p.m. Clover Kids Poultry Show
4 p.m. Poultry Show
5 p.m. Clover Bucket Bottle Calf Show
5 p.m. Carnival opens
7 p.m. Spazmatics (grandstand)
9 p.m. Snake Oil (grandstand)
10 p.m. Jammer (Volunteer Hall)
Saturday, July 31
7-9 a.m. Maquoketa State Bank Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Clover Kids Rabbit Show
9 a.m. Rabbit Show
9 a.m. Beef Show
1 p.m. Carnival Rides Open
2 p.m. Farm Bureau Kids Contests
2 p.m. Bill Hayes Memorial Reception
5 p.m. Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search (Pearson)
7:30 p.m. Confederate Railroad (grandstands)
9:30 p.m. Trace Adkins (grandstand)
10:30 p.m. Jarrod Hogan South 55 (Volunteer Hall)
Sunday, Aug. 1
9 a.m. Duane Hansen Memorial Car Show
10 a.m. Livestock auctions begin
12 p.m. National Micro Mini Tractor Pull (Volunteer Hall)
12 p.m. Carnival rides open
4 p.m. Hug a Hog Contest (grandstand)
3 and 5 p.m. Chris Short marionette puppets (Pearson)
5 p.m. Power Wheels Demo (grandstand)
6 p.m. Quilt raffle drawings (grandstand)
6 p.m. Night of Destruction (grandstand)