116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
UPDATE: Lady A has canceled its Saturday concert, citing “unforseen circumstances. 3 Doors Down will step into the spotlight instead, with Uncle Kracker still opening the 8 p.m. concert.
Ready, set, go.
Want to see Hank Williams Jr., Brothers Osborne, Lady A or Blanco Brown in concert free of charge?
Follow the sun to Monticello from July 21 to 24, and at 8 a.m., pay the gate fee then follow the stampede to stake out a free spot on the grassy hillsides flanking the paid seating at the Great Jones County Fair.
Fans can plunk down blankets, chairs and 8-foot-by-8-foot tarps at any time during the day — of course, the earlier the better for prime seating. The sound will carry through the night air, and jumbo projection screens will carry the stage views to the hillsides.
“It’s an economically friendly way for a family to come to the fair,” said Abby Jaeger of rural Jones County, near Worthington. She’s come to the fair “for years and years,” and has joined the staff as the office assistant to the new general manager, Lucas Gobeli.
Tickets still are available for concertgoers who want a reserved seat or standing-room-only space in front of the stage, Jaeger noted, adding that early birds have no need to wonder how they’ll pass the 12 hours between the gate opening and the concerts.
Musical chart-toppers and hitmakers are just part of the reason the fair is “great.”
What: 2022 Great Jones County Fair
When: Events Sunday, July 17, to July 24
Where: Fairgrounds, 800 N. Maple St., Monticello
Concerts: Hank Williams Jr. with Tracy Byrd opening, 8 p.m. July 21, $45; Brothers Osborne and Lee Brice, 8 p.m. July 22, $40; NEW: 3 Doors Down A with Uncle Kracker opening, 8 p.m. July 23, $40; Blanco Brown, 7:30 p.m. July 24, $15
Gate admission: $5 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, $10 after 1 p.m.; $10 Saturday and Sunday; free every day for ages 10 and under
A huge carnival midway, plus free shows and music on smaller stages, food vendors and animal shows and an air-conditioned exhibit hall also help make the fair “great.”
The pandemic shut down the 2020 fair, except for some 4-H exhibits. The fair made a measured return in 2021.
“We were so glad to be back,” Jaeger said, “but it was a reality check of where the world was at, at that time.”
A typical year finds about 100,000 people coming to the fair, which Jaeger expects to continue operating with a pre-pandemic budget of $3.5 million.
This year, “we’re back in full force as much as the world allows these days,” she said. “We’re really excited about who we have coming this year, and some of the different changes that we’ve made. There’s some really good things happening. A lot of the free stage family friendly stuff has been kicked that up a notch so families can spend the day and not have to spend a million dollars.”
The big names are coming back to the mainstage, as well, with artists eager to return to the road after the pandemic shutdown. The fair has built up a reputation among artists and representatives, so the stars will be shining onstage, followed by fireworks.
“We’re proud of where we come from, and I always say the skies are always bluer in Jones County,” Jaeger said.
“We work hard to get those names and we work hard to accommodate all of the things those people require. We have the set up for it, we have the ability to do it. And when you come to the Great Jones County Fair, it’s like a feeling in your soul. For those people out on the stage, this is where we come from, and this is what we’re proud of, and we want those people to feel it, as well.”
A local celebrity who’s looking forward to the returning to the fair is 2021 fair queen Karli Recker, 19, of Hopkinton. A longtime fairgoer and 4-H and FFA member who has shown sheep there, she’s studied at Kirkwood Community College and is heading to the University of Northern Iowa’s pre-physical therapy program.
After reigning over various aspects of last year’s fair, from showing her sheep while wearing her crown, then handing out ribbons and being among the queens at the livestock shows, she also got close-up views at the mainstage concerts and sat in on fair board meetings for a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to put together the fair. She also rode in various parades and represented Jones County at the State Fair.
She’ll be crowning the 2022 queen at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 19.
Looking back over her reign, she said: “I just loved meeting all the fairgoers. I’m such a people-person, so it was awesome to meet them. The reason I wanted to run for fair queen is because when I was a little girl, I always aspired to be the fair queen. And seeing how I made an impact on all the little kids who came up to me made my heart so happy.”
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