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Both the Isanti County Fair and Chisago County Fair are returning in 2021 with plenty of exhibits, vendors, carnival rides, grandstand events, 4-H events and more.

The Isanti County Fair will be held July 21-25 at the Isanti County Fairgrounds, 3101 Highway 95 NE, Cambridge. Fair times include 3-11 p.m. on July 21; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 22-24; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 25. The carnival and midway open at 3 p.m. on July 21; 1 p.m. on July 22; 10 a.m. on July 23; and at noon on July 24 and July 25. More detailed information can be found at isanticountyfair.com.

The Chisago County Fair will be held July 22-25 at the Chisago County Fairgrounds, 905 W. Fourth St., Rush City, with gates opening daily at 8 a.m. More detailed information can be found at chisagocountyfair.org.

Tickets to enter the Isanti County Fair (gate admission only) are $5 for those ages 8 and over while children 7 and under are free. Tickets to grandstand events are $10 for those ages 8 and over while children 7 and under are free. Advance sale of ride tickets are available online at isanticountyfair.com/carnival. Advance sale of ride tickets include five tickets for $10, and wristband sales for $25, that include unlimited rides between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 23 and noon to 5 p.m. on July 25.

Isanti County Fair grandstand events include motocross at 7 p.m. July 21; night of destruction at 7 p.m. July 22; tractor pull at 7 p.m. July 23; and demo derby at 7 p.m. on July 24. A free grandstand event, featuring a garden tractor pull, will be held at 1 p.m. on July 25. The Isanti County Fair also offers free bandshell musical acts featuring Kenny Krona at 6 p.m. on July 21; Triple Dog Dare at 8 p.m. on July 22; The Farmer’s Daughters at 8 p.m. on July 23; and Bad Jack at 8 p.m. on July 24.

The Chisago County Fair offers free gate admission, but parking is $3 per day or $7 for a four-day pass. Tickets to the motocross at 7 p.m. on July 22 are $12 for adults; $6 ages 5-11; and free for children 4 and under. Tickets to the demo derby at 7 p.m. on July 23 and 7 p.m. on July 24 are $14 for adults; $6 ages 5-11; and free for children 4 and under. Tickets into the demo pit gate are $30 and no one under 16 is allowed.

While both county fair boards have been planning for the past year to bring back the fair in 2021 after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, it wasn’t until Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz lifted most restrictions in May that the boards decided their fairs would proceed “as normal.”

“As director of District No. 3 of the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs — which includes Chisago, Isanti, Pine, Anoka and Washington counties — we met in April with the local fairs to discuss what this year will look like. For most of us the excitement to hold the fair was there and planning had started, but most of us were still struggling with what the fair would look like, including our grandstand events, especially with the social distancing requirements. Without full grandstands, the fairs would suffer financially,” said Jen Penzenstadler, who has been a member of the Chisago County Agricultural Society for six years, currently serving as secretary. “When the governor made the announcement that the restrictions would be lifted by fair time, we were able to have a vote to hold our fair as normal at our May fair board meeting. Same with the other local fairs.”

Isanti County Fair

Tonya Orbeck, who currently serves as vice president of the Isanti County Agricultural Society, said everyone she’s talked to is looking forward to the Isanti County Fair.

“We are expecting a huge turnout. I think people are ready to get out and have some fun,” Orbeck said. “We’ve got a lot of fun things planned. We have our new agricultural building that we can hold events in this year and different activities. The senior program will be held in there (the agricultural building) during the afternoon of July 22. We have our Military Day on Wednesday, July 21. We just have a lot of fun activities. We’re bringing back the Mutton’ Bustin this year. Kids Day (July 23) has grown to be huge, there’s a lot of fun activities scheduled for it. We got the Rad Zoo that will be set up during the entire fair besides the balloon art by Ms. Jazee, and she’ll be walking around all weekend giving out free balloons to the kids. And we have all of our normal grandstand events.”

Orbeck highlighted a new speaker this year at the Isanti County Fair will be Minnesota photographer and author Doug Ohman. Ohman will be doing three presentations on Friday, July 23: at 1 p.m. “Heart of the Farm - Barns of Minnesota”; 3 p.m. “Saving History - Relics from Isanti County and more”; and 5 p.m. “Name that Town.”

He will follow that up with three more presentations on Saturday, July 24: at 1 p.m. “Fair Time - The Story of County Fairs”; 3 p.m. “Churches of Minnesota”; and 5 p.m. “Heart of the Farm - Barns of Minnesota.” The presentations on July 23 and July 24 will be held in the Curling Building Clubhouse.

“Just come out and have some fun and see what we’ve got. We’ve worked really hard on this year’s fair and there’s something for all ages. So come out and see what you can find,” Orbeck said. “Isanti County 4-H is also a big part of our fair again this year with all of their animals, so we appreciate them being there. We also appreciate all of our volunteers and sponsors — the fair couldn’t happen without them.”

Orbeck also gave much credit to the fair board members who have spent the past year building the new Agricultural Building and encouraged fairgoers to visit the new building.

Orbeck has served for over 20 years as organizer of Kids Day, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon on July 23, with a free ice cream cone certificate given to the first 200 kids provided by Dairy Queen. Most of the Kids Day activities are free and include music and fun by the Wonderful World of Woody, inflatables, games, face painting, fire trucks, a demonstration by the Cambridge Kennel Club, the Rad Zoo, balloon art by Ms. Jazee, and free ice cream to kids 12 and under provided by Scoop’s. Door prize drawings will be held at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with tickets available at the entrance. Receive an extra ticket with a food shelf donation.

Highlights of the Isanti County Fair include free trolley rides, a farm exhibit in the Agricultural Museum, free petting zoo and daily bingo.

Other highlights include Freedom Fest at 1 p.m. on July 21; senior program from 1-4 p.m. July 22 at the Agricultural Building; Kiddie Tractor Pull from 2-4 p.m. July 23; Blue Ribbon Beard Contest at 4 p.m. on July 24; Rum River Rods Car Club Car Show from 8 a.m. to noon on July 25; a church service provided by New Hope Community Church at 9 a.m. on July 25; a free corn feed sponsored by the Isanti Lion’s Club from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 25; and a miniature horse show at 11:30 a.m. on July 25.

Chisago County Fair

Penzenstadler is looking forward to all the new highlights of this year’s Chisago County Fair.

“We had so many exciting things planned for 2020, and with an extra year of planning, we have been able to make them even better,” Penzenstadler said. “With the AGRI grant from the state of Minnesota, we will be opening a new exhibit called Little AGventures. This exhibit will be geared toward children and families to learn about livestock and Minnesota agriculture. There will be live baby animals, interactive exhibits, a children’s play area and coloring station as well as hands-on activities to participate in on Sunday during Kids Day. We also received another state grant to promote art in our community and will be putting on free art classes for those that sign up. These classes include painting, sign making and mandala rock painting. We still have a few spots remaining.”

Penzenstadler is excited that the “fan favorite” type of events will be returning this year.

“A fan favorite that will return is always the demo derby. It will be great to see the bleachers filled again with standing room only Friday and Saturday night. We have almost $30,000 in prize money up for grabs,” Penzenstadler said. “Another fan favorite is our Sunday Kids Day, consisting of a pirate show, farm animal babies, fair bingo, family portraits, face painting, sawdust pile coin hunt, bicycle giveaways, games and lots more.”

Musical entertainment will also be a part of the Chisago County Fair. Kenny Krona and Rick Steger will perform from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on July 22 on the patio by the beer garden while Gel will perform from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the stage by the beer garden. Neighberz will perform from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on July 23 on the patio by the beer garden while Stone Daisy Band will perform from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the stage by the beer garden. Time Bandits will perform from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on July 24 on the patio by the beer garden while Five Minute Major will perform from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the stage by the beer garden.

The Chisago County Fair Parade will be held at 3 p.m. on July 24. Free Kids Day games and activities (for those 10 and under) will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 25, with the kids pedal tractor pull being held at noon that day.

Penzenstadler truly enjoys the Chisago County Fair.

“As a long-standing 4-H volunteer and show mom, I love the exhibits, especially 4-H livestock. It is amazing to watch the 4-H’ers set goals, obtain them and grow each year. Anyone who has ever watched a livestock show can see how much love, sweat and sometimes tears go into those projects,” Penzenstadler said. “If you have never been to our fair, this is the year to come. We are back! We have new exhibits, old and new vendors, live music, great food, fun rides, grandstand events and much more. We are also a free gate fair, meaning you only have to pay for parking and grandstand events.”

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