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updated: 7/5/2011 4:16 PM

Ribfest, Eyes celebrate booming holiday business

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  • With this year's Ribfest in the history books, the task of cleaning up the grounds falls to people like Shelby Stephens of Naperville, who worked several days at the festival as part of the cleaning crew.

       With this year's Ribfest in the history books, the task of cleaning up the grounds falls to people like Shelby Stephens of Naperville, who worked several days at the festival as part of the cleaning crew.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Ben Vietr of Naperville volunteered along with the rest of his baseball team to help take down and stack chairs at Knoch Park in the wake of this year's Ribfest celebration.

       Ben Vietr of Naperville volunteered along with the rest of his baseball team to help take down and stack chairs at Knoch Park in the wake of this year's Ribfest celebration.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • From high atop a stage truss, Brad Gonda of Chicago works on the breakdown of the northern stage area at the site of Ribfest. The festival ended Monday night and the work of breaking down stages, tents and cleaning up the grounds started Tuesday morning.

       From high atop a stage truss, Brad Gonda of Chicago works on the breakdown of the northern stage area at the site of Ribfest. The festival ended Monday night and the work of breaking down stages, tents and cleaning up the grounds started Tuesday morning.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

Organizers of two of DuPage County's largest summer festivals are crediting ideal weather for booming attendance over the holiday weekend.

In Lisle, roughly 45,000 people attended the three-day Eyes to the Skies festival in Community Park. And while totals for Naperville's Ribfest still were being calculated Tuesday, organizers with the Naperville Exchange Club say they are confident the event drew more than 200,000 people during its four-day run at Knoch Park.

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"It went wonderfully," Ribfest spokeswoman Julie Lichter said. "We had four great days of sunshine."

The crowds at Ribfest grew so large on Saturday night that Knoch Park had to be closed around 7:15 p.m., about an hour before STYX and Kenny Wayne Shepherd performed.

"It was very, very full," Lichter said. "We didn't want to risk having any safety hazards by having an overflowing park. Our ultimate goal is to have a safe and fun event."

She said festival-goers who paid the admission fee before the ticket booths shut down were allowed to enter the park as people left.

"Everybody who stuck around and had their tickets," Lichter said, "we did accommodate them eventually."

Sunday was the biggest day at Eyes to the Skies, with nearly 20,000 people at the festival by the time the 20-minute fireworks show began.

"It was our best night in years," said Roger Leone, the festival chairman. "It was fantastic on our end."

He said the "incredible" weather was a big reason why so many people flocked to the festival. Of the total number of people who attended during the three days, about 38,000 paid to enter the grounds. The rest had special passes that allowed them to enter for free.

There also wasn't a charge for anyone who sat in Community Park just to watch the three nights of fireworks. As a result, there's no estimate on how many people did that.

"The east side of the river was like a campground on all three nights," Leone said.

Meanwhile, Eyes to the Skies and Ribfest organizers said revenue figures from the events won't be available for weeks.

Leone said Eyes to the Skies organizers are hoping to top last year's festival, which raised nearly $50,000 for area civic groups. He said Sunday's turnout has him confident that goal will be met. "It was an absolute home run," he said.

Proceeds from Ribfest will be donated to a variety of organizations that aid in the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.

"Our target is to raise the most money we can," said Lichter, adding that last year's festival raised more than $500,000 for local agencies.

As for cleaning up Knoch Park, Lichter said it's expected to take crews about three days to complete that work. In Lisle, volunteers and park district workers were picking up tents and cleaning the parking lots at Community Park.

"In a couple of days, you'll never know the festival was here," Leone said.

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