Milking parlor to debut at Lake County Fair

When the Lake County Fair opens July 24, a new feature in Barn No. 2 will give visitors a clearer picture of where milk comes from.

Some plumbing and drainage work needs to be finished but otherwise a “small but awesome” milking parlor is ready for dairy cows to do their thing.

“We’ve got our own little building now,” said Lynn Doolittle, who has served as superintendent of the fair’s dairy barn for more than 30 years. “It’s not a modern milking parlor, per se, but it is 100 times better than what we had before.”

Milking demonstrations long have been part of the annual fair experience. But since a new fairgrounds and facilities were built at 1060 E. Peterson Road in Grayslake, it hasn’t been what it used to be.

“When we were at the fairgrounds on Route 45 in Grayslake we didn’t have anything fancy to milk in but at least we were on concrete,” said Doolittle, a former dairy farmer.

“Since the Lake County Fair moved to its current location 15 years ago, we have been milking in an enclosure of plywood boards, not trimmed out at all and a dirt floor,” she added. “It is not a good representation of what dairy farmers would even consider milking their dairy cows in.”

Lynne Doolittle, superintendent of the Dairy Barn for the Lake County Fair, says the new “small but awesome” milking parlor to debut when the fair opens July 24 will give visitors a close-up view.
Mick Zawislak/

Because potentially harmful bacteria from cow “byproducts” and other sources can grow in dirt, concrete is the preferred option, as it can be easily cleaned and maintained.

“It wasn’t ideal and it didn’t represent the dairy industry very well,” explained Jonathan Kuester, director of the Glenview Park District’s Historic Wagner Farm.

Cook County doesn’t have a livestock fair, so the Glenview Clovers 4H club participates in the Lake County Fair. The Clovers will have three cows in the milking parlor.

With funding tight, some facilities planned for the current fairgrounds still haven’t been built and a milking parlor wasn’t on the to-do list until recent years.

“We finally pushed ourselves to start planning and then requested the fair board’s commitment to the project and they readily agreed,” Doolittle said. She estimated the cost of the “small but awesome facility” at $15,000 to $18,000.

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A concrete pad was poured last fall and a 25-by-10½-foot structure built in April.

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Besides electricity and a sanitary sewer for drainage, the little three-sided structure has a wash sink and trough and a pump for the vacuum to the milking machines.

Doolittle said she hopes to have a parade of cows for the grand opening July 24.

Dairy farms once thrived in Lake County, but the industry was all but extinguished with the closing in 2014 of the Diebold farm in Fremont Township. Only Golden Oaks Farm in Wauconda, with about 720 milk cows, remains.

“There used to be dairy farms all over Lake County,” said Doolittle, whose grandfather’s farm was among them. “Nobody wants to be that dirty and work that hard anymore.”

Greg Koeppen, executive director of the Lake County Farm Bureau, is happy to see the new milking facility. Fair visitors in the past could see cows up close but few fully understood the milking process, he added.

“This new parlor will give them that up-close visual. It will also remind our youth that milk doesn’t just come from a plastic one-gallon container,” Koeppen said. “It all starts on the farm.”

For details about Lake County Fair attractions, visit

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