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With everything from pie contests to monster trucks, the 90th annual Johnson County Fair starts on Sunday

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Johnson County Fair

Johnson County Fairgrounds — Sunday, July 21 through Wednesday, July 24

Brian Neudorff via flickr creative commons

The 90th annual Johnson County Fair will bring ugly cakes, excellent pies and monster trucks to Johnson County Fairgrounds starting on Sunday, July 21. The fair run through Wednesday night, and will conclude with a concert by Spencer, Iowa’s Casey Muessigmann, who appeared on season three of NBC’s The Voice, as well as the traditional fireworks display.

But at its heart, the fair still remains “a genuine livestock show,” as the Evening Gazette and Republican called the 1929 fair.

“It’s really very focused on agriculture and the animals and the 4-H and FFA kids,” said Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan, who attends the fair every year. “It’s very simple. It’s kind of a throwback fair to the way it would’ve been 50, 60 years ago.”

Along with agriculture and the rides, there’s are plenty of other events each day, starting with a chainsaw carving exhibition on Sunday.

Sunday, July 21

Carve R Way Chainsaw Carvings — Building B East, 10 a.m.

Ugly Cake Contest—Building C, 2 p.m.

2019 Johnson County 4-H FFA Queen Pageant—FB Variety Stage, 3 p.m.

Rubber Chicken Throwing Contest—Road between buildings A and B, 4 p.m.

All Star Monster Truck Tour—Grandstand, 7 p.m.

Monday, July 22

Hula Hoop Contest—Concourse, 3 p.m.

Kiddie Tractor Pull—South Arena, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, July 23

Bill Riley Talent Show—FB Variety Tent, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, July 24

13th Annual Jo Beers Pie Contest and Auction—FB Variety Tent, noon

Casey Muessigmann Concert—FB Variety Tent, 7 p.m.

A full schedule of events is available online. The carnival rides and games begin at noon on Sunday.

Although this will be the 90th annual fair, the first Johnson County Fair was actually held in 1853, and it was an annual event until 1917. That year the Iowa City Republican reported the fair was having financial problems. The fair’s organizers, the Johnson County Agricultural and Horticultural Society, decided to discontinue it.

In 1929, the recently organized Johnson County 4-H revived the fair tradition with its first Johnson County 4-H Fair. Twenty years later, the newly formed Johnson County Agricultural Association took over management of the fair.

The current fair doesn’t have financial worries the early 20th century version did, in large part because of steady support from the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. The fair receives more than $100,000 in support from the county.

“I’m a really big fan of the fair,” Sullivan, the longest serving member of board, told Little Village. “And one of the things I like the most is that it’s free parking and free entry. That’s not the case with most county fairs.”

But not everyone in Johnson County approves of tax dollars being used to support the fair. In recent years, there have been regular objections that the fair — especially the “Family Rodeo” — exploits animals.

“Certainly nobody on the board endorses animal abuse,” Sullivan said. “It’s important to note that the rodeo that they do is not really associated with the fair. We don’t give money for that rodeo. We give money to keep the fair free.”


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