Although a county named “Winnebago” may conjure mental images of endless rows of silver campers occupied by retirees, Winnebago County in north central Illinois is actually named for the Winnebago Native American tribe who once lived in this area; the word “Winnebago” means “fish eater.” It was established as a county in 1836. The County is 520 square miles and has 14 townships, 8 villages and 3 cities.
Winnebago County has a population of 295,266, which is an increase of a little more than six percent from the 2000 census. Its population density is 542 people per square mile, and its racial makeup is approximately 82 percent white and 10 percent black. The median income for a household in the county is $43,886. For men looking to find a wife, Winnebago County might be the right place: for every 100 females age 18 and over, there were only 92.60 males.
The western part of Winnebago County is rural with some of the richest farmland in the world while the eastern half, which includes the City of Rockford, is urban and has several industries; it is attracting more industries into its economic mix as the economy shifts from manufacturing to a combination of manufacturing and service. Rockford is the state’s third-largest city, and is situated 90 miles northwest of Chicago, 90 miles southwest of Milwaukee, 60 miles south of Madison and just 15 miles from the Wisconsin state line.
Winnebago County is the site of the Winnebago County Fair, located at the fairgrounds in Pecatonica, Illinois. The fairgrounds cover more than 108 acres, and the fair attracts residents each year with the sights, the sounds, the animals, the competitions, the music, the lights, the great entertainment and everything else that’s wonderful about a rural state fair. During other times of the year, the fairgrounds are host to music festivals, motor sports, auto and trade shows, conventions, antique markets and social events.