The Scene

What to know about Harvard Milk Days, opening Friday

Festival now at 83rd year celebrating all things dairy in McHenry County

Harmilda oversees the Harvard Milk Days parade Saturday, June 4, 2022, in Harvard.

When the Harvard Chamber of Commerce organized its first Milk Day in 1942, it celebrated the fact that more milk was produced within a 12 mile radius of the city than anywhere in the country, said Mike Bannwolf.

While the city no longer has an operating dairy plant – it closed in July 2022 – Harvard Milk Days still celebrates all things milk and dairy, said Bannwolf, co-general chairman of the annual festival that kicks off its 83rd year this weekend, opening Friday and running through Sunday.

Competitors line up on Sunday, June 4, 2023, for the Junior Dairy Cattle Show held during Harvard's Milk Days festival. A total of 14 different classes of competitors showed five different dairy cows during the annual event.

Organizers have also been able to bring some of that milk back to focus. The Madison, Wisconsin, offices of Kemps Dairy, as well as Prairie Farms Dairy out of Rockford, are sponsoring portions of the weekend, Bannwolf said. That includes bringing back the tradition of giving away milk. The two sponsors make milk available to nonprofit organizations with food booths at the festival grounds. During the parade, “a Kemps distributor on the parade route will hand out milk to the parade goers” from a refrigerated float, Bannwolf said.

What should you about getting into Milk Days in Harvard?

  • The festival grounds open at 5 p.m. Friday, Entrance to the festival grounds, at Milky Way Park, 300 Lawrence Road, is free. Parking on the grounds is $8. “There is no expense to come onto the grounds,” Bannwolf said, adding that many events there are completely free. “You can come in and not spend a dime while walking the grounds.”
  • Not all Milk Days events occur at the park. The annual Youth Parade starts at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, and the Milk Days Parade is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Both are on on Ayer Street in downtown Harvard.
  • The Milk Walk/Milk Run is set for 7:45 a.m. at Jefferson School, 1200 N. Jefferson St. with registration starting at 6:45 a.m.
  • Thursday is the last day to purchase ride wristbands at a reduced price. They can be found from 9 to 4:30 p.m. at the Harvard City Hall, 201 W Diggins St., in the Community Room. Wristbands offer unlimited carnival rides during set hours each day

What can you do during Harvard’s Milk Days?

  • Free events on the grounds Friday, Saturday and Sunday include a petting zoo, the Wheels of Agriculture Game Show and a circus offered by Clark and Barnes Entertainment.
  • Bands are set between for the entertainment tent on Friday and Sunday nights. On Saturday, a talent show is set for 6 p.m. in the entertainment tent.

What dairy-themed events are a part of Milk Days?

  • On Saturday, there is a milk drinking contest at 4 p.m., with registration beginning at 3 p.m., and a Milking Contest at 5 p.m. at the dairy barn.
  • The Junior Dairy Cattle Show is set to start at noon. Young people from around McHenry County and southern Wisconsin bring out their dairy cows for judging, and it is considered a preview event for county fairs later in the summer.

A full listing of events and times can be found at the Milk Days website,

Janelle Walker

Janelle Walker

Originally from North Dakota, Janelle covered the suburbs and collar counties for nearly 20 years before taking a career break to work in content marketing. She is excited to be back in the newsroom.