The Pedersen family primarily raises and boards horses at their home, Castle Ridge Keep, in Ridgefield.
But 11-year-old Alyssa and her old brother Mark have three "pet" projects they've been tending to this summer. Those pets are in the form of steer, each weighing 1,200 to 1,300 pounds, according to their mother, June Pedersen.
The Pedersens were busy on Tuesday loading 'Rhubarb,' 'Sam Adams' and 'Budweiser' into a livestock trailer and transporting them to the McHenry County Fairgrounds in Woodstock as part of the children's 4-H project.
For young Alyssa, this is the third year she purchased, cared for and prepared a steer for the annual fair. Rhubarb, a gigantic but friendly brown cow, will be judged against other bovine contestants, who hale from within and outside McHenry County.
June Pedersen said the 4-H project is challenging, but rewarding for her kids.
"They learn a lot," June Pedersen said. "They have to work with the steer every day. They get to see where their food comes from. And we bless the animals for providing us food."
The Pedersens were just one of scores of families bringing in all types of farm animals to the Fairgrounds in hopes of winning a first-place standing, and possibly a reserve or grand champion award.
Over in the newly-renovated Swine Barn, Emilie Fruin, 13, of Huntley, was tending to her 273-pound white pig named Flynnagan. Fruin, an eighth-grader at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills, said it's fun raising a pig from its toddler-stage, when it weighs only about 40 pounds, to grooming it into the meaty, muscular contestant it has become today.
"It's interesting (to raise a pig)," said Fruin, who lives with her family in rural Huntley west of Route 47. "Sometimes it's tiring, but it gives me something fun to do in the summer."
Emilie's father, Ross, explained the pigs are judged at the fair based on their appearance, muscle tone, how they walk, and how they carry their heads (aka. pig posture). They're separated into categories by weight and gender.
Animals that show well can advance to fairs in other counties or downstate at the Illinois State Fair. The McHenry County Fairgrounds has several barns filled with all types of livestock and feathered friends. Visitors can get up close to sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, ducks and geese in a variety of breeds.
The specifics for the 64th McHenry County Fair include:
- Runs Wednesday, Aug. 1 through Sunday, August 5.
- Fairgrounds are located at the intersection of Country Club Road and Route 47, Woodstock.
- New this year: a Wether, Fur and Feather Sale at 6 pm Friday. At this auction, smaller animals will be sold. Goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and turkeys available for bidding.
- Barnyard Buddies runs Thursday to Sunday in the Beef Barn, where fairgoers can view and pet baby farm animals.
- Back by popular demand: Come out and milk a cow with just a bucket and your hands.
Other events include:
Entertainment Tent/Beer Garden
Friday, Aug. 3
5 p.m. Aunt Janet Band playing rock favorites
9-11:30 pm-Modern Day Romeos. This cover band plays pop
Saturday Aug. 4
3 pm-Georgia Rae Family Band- Blue Grass
6:30-9 pm-Hans and the Hormones- Rock/60s to the present.
9-11:30 pm-Trash Martinis- Rock Roll Party Band
Sunday, Aug. 5
3-7 pm: Jenae Cherry Band playing modern country
Wednesday Aug. 1, McHenry County Queen Contest
Competition will feature 16 local girls ages 16 to 20, vowing for the title of Miss McHenry County 2012. The winner will then compete down state at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Girls compete in a swimsuit, evening gown, and talent contest.
Thursday, Aug. 2, A 21-Tractor Salute
With 21 antique tractors pulling out on the track at 6:30 p.m. and saluting veterans of various wars and combats. An antique tractor pull follows at 8 pm.
Friday Aug. 3, Tractor Pulls presented by Midwest Pullers
Features modified tractors, some of which contain jet propulsion engines and other modified vehicles meant for pulling heavy weights in a sled. There'll also be "crashing and a bashing" of some old-school combines with corn heads in place - starts at 6:30 pm and concludes at 9 p.m. Cost is $5 per person for the grandstands.
Saturday Aug. 4, Full Day of Tractor Pulls presented by Illini State Pullers.
Starts at noon, and consists of stock truck and tractors at no cost. Then at 6 pm a show at $5 per person will be offered featuring modified trucks and tractors.
Sunday Aug. 5, Derby Icons
Derby icons take over the infield with two shows of cars crashing and bashing. Expect to see real life bumper cars, where the goal is to take the other car out. The first show starts at 1:30 followed by second show at 5:30 p.m. at a fee of $7 per person.