Van Buren Youth Fair horse photo

Cole, 6, of Bloomingdale, shows her Belgian horse, Rock, and finishes in third place during Pee Wee Showmanship at the Van Buren Youth Fair in 2018. This year’s fair will take place July 19-24 at the fairgrounds in Hartford.

HARTFORD — After organizers canceled last year’s 65th annual Van Buren Youth Fair, due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the event will return this week with a wide variety of events.

The fair begins Monday, July 19 and continues through Saturday, July 24.

After being forced to cancel last year’s fair, organizers are pleased that once again the fair will go on.

“All our youth and their families are thrilled that the Van Buren Youth Fair is taking place this year after a heartbreaking 2020 fair season,” said Stephanie Zabavski, president of the fair’s board of directors. “We are both overjoyed and filled with anticipation for an amazing fair week.”

Zabavski’s positive remarks about the fair are much different from how the fair board felt at the start of 2021.

“At the beginning of the year, it was exceedingly difficult to plan our fair week,” she said. “We were unsure if we would even be able to have a fair. Fortunately, COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines were modified and/or completely lifted which enabled us to plan for a full fair experience.”

As in the past, this year’s fair will feature 4-H youth exhibits and judging of various animal classes throughout the day, the popular Skerbeck carnival and midway and hillside entertainment each night.

The entertainment opens Monday evening with tethered hot-air balloon rides by Magic Clouds Balloon company of Battle Creek. On Tuesday the Hartford NTPA Nationals competition will return to the fair during the evening, along with the Unique Motor Sports Demolition Derby on Wednesday. Thursday will feature a new event, KOI Drag Racing. The organization, based out of Owenton, Ky., offers a variety of races involving full-size vehicles and ATVs. On Friday, the popular Super Kicker Rodeo will return to the fair and on Saturday, another new event, Mud Bog races, organized through Unique Motor Sports, is scheduled.

Area vehicle and ATV enthusiasts can get in on the action in several of the evening events, including the Demolition Derby, KOI Drag Racing and the Mud Bog competition. For more information, contact or

Although fairgoers are attracted to the fair for its carnival rides and nightly entertainment, arguably one of the main attractions is the 4-H exhibits and the many youth who spend much of their time throughout the year readying their exhibits.

Unfortunately, the cancellation of last year’s fair coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a reduction of exhibitors this year, but fair officials are still satisfied with the number of participants this year, given the difficulty of organizing the week-long event because of the ongoing COVID-19 health restrictions earlier this year.

“Usually we have around 300 exhibitors,” Zabavski said. “However, numbers are slightly lower than in previous years. We have just under 250 exhibitors ready for the fair this year.”

For more information about the Van Buren Youth Fair, visit The fairgrounds are located at 55670 County Road 681 just off Red Arrow Highway.