Is there anything more Midwestern than a blog post about what a fair costs and visiting cute farm animals? How about the mention of deep-fried Oreos or deep-fried mac ‘n cheese? (Full disclosure: I saw both served on sticks and I ate neither…this time.)
I’ve been going to the Walworth County Fair every summer since I was a kid. Though it’s definitely not in our backyard, it isn’t too far to travel, especially since we can stay fairly close by with family.
This is the first year, though, where I really chose to think about what it costs to go to a fair.
I knew if my husband went on an empty stomach, we could easily take out a second mortgage to cover what he ate. But what I was really curious about is how much it would actually cost to go to the fair with a toddler in tow. Specifically, a toddler who is energetic, fearless, and shares the same appetite as his dad.
Here’s everything we did and everything we spent on a day of fun at the Walworth County Fair:
It seems like every carnival, festival, and fair has a different set up for how they cover their admission costs. For the Walworth County Fair, you have two options. You can either purchase a season pass or a daily ticket. Since we weren’t sure about the weather or HP’s overall interest level, we went with the day pass.
- Adult admission: $10/person
- Child admission: $5/person (5-12 years)
- Baby & toddler admission: Free
One day at the fair cost $20 to get in. We also had the option to purchase tickets in advance online, but it came with a convenience charge. Therefore, we didn’t really see the point.
It’s worth noting that they also have senior admission days and other discounted days, but none of that applied to our little family and the day we were attending. Another thing that made the price of admission much easier to stomach is that they allow reentry. Since “home base” for the day was a fairly easy drive, we set up our day to spend a few hours pre-nap and a few hours post-nap at the fair.
Total Cost: $20
This is another cost that can vary widely by venue. The Walworth County Fair offers free parking, so that’s what we chose! There is also quite a bit of street parking available if you’re willing to walk a few blocks.
Homeowners who live across from the fairgrounds also offer parking, but the $5 wasn’t worth the shorter walk since HP could ride in his stroller.
And I always have every intention of eating at least one deep-fried delight. So any extra steps I can get, I’ll happily take!
Total Cost $0
Visiting the Barns
Due to HP’s minuscule attention span, we didn’t bother trying to catch any of the official events. There are tons of different showings, judging, and pig races. Perhaps when he’s older he will be more interested.
For now, walking up and down the aisles of the barns was entertainment enough. The best part was that we went so early in the day. That meant a lot of the animals’ owners were around, and one gentleman even let HP hold his prize rabbit.
Nothing was nearly as exciting as when we entered the Discovery Barn, though. Designed just for kids, HP was delighted to see the different hay bales and animal statues. Then, when he noticed the real pigs, he squealed with delight: “Peppa here! And George!” He also watched “Suzy Sheep” get sheered.
Total Cost $0
Riding Tractors, Trucks, and More
The Walworth County Fair has a huge set up of different vendors selling virtually every single thing that comes with an engine. That meant that HP got to climb on tractors, trucks, snowmobiles, diggers, and so much more. There are also RVs, sheds, barns, and trailers available, but we didn’t tour any of them. Instead, we spent the bulk of our time watching the model toys run. One vendor had a few dozen types of miniature John Deere farm equipment on display, and HP watched them go around and around.
Total Cost $0
The Walworth County Fair is a dry fair. That means there’s no booze sold anywhere. Obviously, if you are headed to a festival that serves alcohol (and you intend to drink!), you’re going to pay a small fortune. A dry venue isn’t a deal-breaker for us. In fact, it means more wiggle room in our budget!
In the morning and early afternoon, we ended up buying a grilled cheese and PB&J from the Booster Club since HP absolutely couldn’t wait to get home for lunch. We also bought a bottle of water, which was harder on my conscience than my wallet.
My husband and I could have waited to eat lunch, but we chose not to. Instead, we dove into our favorite mini donuts. The vendor, Anderson’s Candy Shop, is out of Richmond, IL, and it’s something we look forward to every year. The donuts are served piping hot, and they’re worth every penny.
Plus, the food stand offers free samples of chocolates, dipped pretzels, and more. It a little saturated fat must be good, more must be better!
On the return trip that evening, we knew we were going to eat at least one more treat. A local dairy farmers association sets up a tent, and their ice cream is delicious and super cheap. So we scooped up two of those cones.
Because we ate dinner at home, we saved a small fortune. Most placed served hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, tacos, pork chops on a stick, and it would have easily run $6-$10 an item. Funnel cakes and elephant ears are $5 or $6 each. And if I hadn’t already eaten my body weight in mini donuts in the morning, I would have happily snagged one of those.
- Booster Club sandwiches: $4
- Booster Club water: $2
- Bag of mini donuts: $7
- Ice cream cones: $4
Total Cost: $17
It’s worth mentioning that our son is gargantuan for a two year old. One ride had a height minimum of 34 inches, but most of them were either 36 inches or 42. Several also required an adult until the child was 42 inches or taller. Because HP is so tall, we had plenty of options. Families with smaller kiddos, though, would have been very limited in terms of rides.
- Ride tickets: $1.50/1 ticket
- Ride ticket sheet: $25.00/20 tickets
There is also a wristband deal, but it wasn’t offered on the day that we went. Plus, we weren’t sure that HP would have lasted long enough to really get our money’s worth.
Most of the rides HP wanted to ride cost 2 tickets. However, there were a few rides that required 3-4 tickets. HP was completely fearless, so we even let him ride the little roller coaster. I had to go with, so that ride was a little steep, costing 6 tickets total for both of us.
We also learned that the rides don’t run in the morning. It wasn’t a problem, since we had so many other things to see and do. Plus, we knew re-admission was free, and we intended to come back after his nap.
Kiddieland at Walworth County Fair
Because HP is only two, we barely scratched the surface of what we could do here. They have a lot of different information sessions and activities for kids. We toured their garden, where we saw everything from potatoes to cotton growing. That garden path twisted and turned, leading to a patio with a bunch of mini pedal tractors that kids could ride. HP didn’t really understand how to pedal. Still, we spent a good 15 minutes here because he loved to push and pull them. And sit on the bales of hay.
We bypassed the butterfly garden, due to the crowds and HP’s non-existent attention span.
After that, HP got to scoop up a basket and collect different items at each station. We wove through a garden, got to look at a few different kinds of compost bins, and even got to “milk” a cow.
“All wet everywhere!” HP declared. Future farmer, he is not.
Once he collected all of the items from each station, HP got to go to a little market where he sorted out his goods. Then, he got a “dollar” for his hard work. The volunteer let him choose a milk, a string cheese, or a bag of chips. For a kid who had a dairy allergy the first year of his life, you wouldn’t believe how fast he ate that cheese. He wouldn’t share a single bite!
How Much Does It Cost to Go to a Fair?
At the start of the summer, we set up a sinking fund to pay for our adventures at the fair. We ball-parked $70, and that’s how much cash I took with. Some of the vendors accept credit cards, but they often charge a service fee. There are ATMs on site, but I didn’t even want to guess what kinds of fees those add up to.
When it was all said and done, we visited the fair for $63. The bulk of the cost went to admission for two adults and rides for a very excited toddler. Food wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be. Of course, the fact that we weren’t eating full meals there helped. (It would have helped more if HP’s stomach also got that snacks-only memo.)
Grand Total: $63
Is the Walworth County Fair Worth It?
I can get a little Scrooge-y sometimes, so I often wonder if spending money is “worth it”. I can honestly say that this fair was worth every penny. I don’t know that we would have done as well with just a carnival or another kind of festival. Part of what made the Walworth County Fair worth is was the huge variety of things to do. Truthfully, we didn’t even scratch the surface. It’s exciting to know that this is definitely something we can look forward to each year and something that HP can grow into for years to come.
The real secret seems to be in the sinking fund, though. $70 would have taken a hunk out of our September spending. In fact, it would have been almost ⅓ of what we allocate for the whole month! But having the $70 cash made it really worthwhile.
The best part is that the cash came mostly from clutter and other odds and ends. We cobbled together the money from selling:
- Michael Kors shoes
- Precious Moments figurine
- Wedding lantern and lights
- Storage cabinet
We also tacked in:
- RetailMeNot $5 PayPal bonus
- Found change
- $1 of birthday money from his great aunt
Going forward, though, I think I will definitely pad our sinking fund a bit more. That’s right! There’s plenty of free summer fun to be had, and I’m making it more so. For an experience like this, though, I say it’s worth it.
Looking to next year, $100 seems like an ideal number for the three of us. A little more cash won’t hurt in case HP wants to ride more rides, play a few games, or my willpower doesn’t last. I’m not sure I can turn down funnel cakes two years in a row!
So Tell Me…Did you visit any festivals or fairs this year? Does it seem like we spent too much or too little?
It sounds like the fair has a lot of free things for HP to do and he had a fun day! We stopped going to the fair a couple years ago when it cost us $100 just for parking and admission. Add in the rides & food for a couple of teenage boys and you can quickly spend a lot of money.
I was actually really surprised at how many things kept him busy for so long. We probably could have skipped the rides entirely if we were feeling a little persuasive. But since we saved up for it, I don’t really mind the spending (this time!).
I love our Minnesota state fair that runs the 12 days up to labor day. Cost to get in 15.00 per ticket, but we each saved 3 dollars off by buying at a local grocery store before the fair starts. Just seeing the arts and crafts, 4H, animals and the cute llama, listing to music is worth it and hanging out with my 26 year old son. we get the mini donuts treats, fries, and our favorite curried chicken wrap. I think its worth it.
That’s an awesome idea to check for local deals. I wonder if I could find something like that next year!