Improvements added to Lake County Fairgrounds

Besides an upgrade in appearance and function, there is a practical advantage to the new electronic entry sign at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.

"You won't have to go out in the snow on a bucket truck to change the letters," said John Maguire, director of business development and marketing for Lake County Fair Association.

Masons last week finished the red brick support columns. The message center, complete with an ornamental peak topping out at nearly 36 feet high, will be ready before the annual Lake County Fair beginning July 29. The nonprofit organization is in its seventh year at Midlothian and Peterson roads in Grayslake, and the sign is among improvements to add character to the facilities.

Since a new team including Maguire and General Manager Matt Robertson were hired last fall, the directive has been to "step things up," Maguire said.

The sign was part of the original plans for the facility, which opened in 2009 at the new location in Grayslake after more than 50 years at routes 120 and 45. But funding has been a continuing issue as fair officials had been counting on the sale of two adjoining properties fronting Peterson Road to generate millions of dollars. That hasn't happened, although the location of a cell tower on the site has provided a bump in revenue.

"It should have been done in the original game plan," said Kelli Kepler-Yarc, president of the executive board, which oversees day-to-day operations and non-fair business. "We've had the sign in the works for awhile."

The village is contributing $45,000 to the cost of the entry feature intended to help make the facility "more appealing and hopefully more inviting," Kepler-Yarc said.

Other improvements have been completed or are in progress.

"It's a continuation of stuff that needed to be done and finished, and things we wanted to make better for fair operations," said Jon Brodzik, fair board president.

Work is underway to provide a new backdrop for the food service facility inside the events center using reclaimed barn wood.

"We're looking to add more character to the big white box and add some visual interest," Maguire said.

Also, an exterior skin and roof have been installed to the framed bones of what was designed as a smaller version of the cavernous events center, the main building on the grounds. That building will be used for storage but someday will be finished inside, Maguire said.

Fair officials also have invested in new turf for the festival square area to the south of the main building. The area has been seeded with a football-field caliber seed mixture, but it is expected to take a couple of years to become fully luxuriant.

"That's our central park," Maguire said.

Besides the turf, drainage has been improved on the square to prevent pooling and muddy conditions after downpours, Kepler-Yarc said.

The area is expected to get a workout June 26-28 with the arrival of Throttle Fest Chicago 2015. The three-day rally will feature the cast of the truTV show "Full Throttle Saloon," as well as stunt riders, wrestling and live music and other activities. Organizers expect about 30,000 to attend.


Crews work to enclose the one of the unfinished structures at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake. Courtesy of Lake County Fair Association
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