The Lake County Fair Association wants to rebrand its facilities at Peterson and Midlothian roads in Grayslake as a destination for more than its annual namesake summer event.
Officials at the private, not-for-profit organization on Tuesday outlined the initiative that will be led by a newly formed executive board. That group will operate independently but in cooperation with the nine-member board of directors that oversees the fair planning, a yearlong process.
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The fair accounts for about 40 percent of the association's annual income and there is a push to maximize the use of the facilities the rest of the year.
"It's not just a place to hold a five-day event in the summer," Sue Markgraf, vice president of the new group, told the Daily Herald. "This is just the beginning of this place as a community resource and community destination." The change was announced to the membership Tuesday night at its annual meeting.
While the 65,000-square-foot event center is filled most weekends with a variety of activities, the idea is to complement the annual fair with new events that strengthen a commitment to public education and entertainment while promoting agriculture, horticulture and the environment.
"In effect, we are rebranding this place," Markgraf said. "What does this building mean to the future of Lake County and what can we do here now that we've been here for five years?"
The group also will oversee the installation of 160 solar panels on the roof in a unique commercial lease agreement, as well as the marketing of 18 acres of commercially zoned property owned by the association immediately east of the fairgrounds.
First up is the Holiday Hoedown, an indoor winter festival from Dec. 21 through Dec. 29 (closed Dec. 24 and 25), the first association-sponsored event besides the Lake County Fair. That Hoedown will feature seven rides, games, food vendors, Santa's Farm, the Magical Midway, entertainment and other activities.
"What you're used to seeing at the fair, you'll see inside," said Sheri Vyfvinkel, the fair association's general manager and executive director of the new board.
In related news, it also was announced Tuesday that country music duo Big & Rich will perform at the event center on Feb. 22. It will be the first act to play at the fairgrounds under an exclusive agreement with music promoter Mark Khayat, owner of the Austin's Saloon & Eatery in Libertyville.