DuPage County Fair adds beer to boost budget
This year the DuPage County Fair will have the same prizewinning pigs, sugary snacks and roaring carnival rides.
But organizers are learning to do more with less.
Due to Illinois budget cuts, state funding for the fair was reduced by nearly one-third this year.
"We get some funding from the state and the economy of the state is not great so we're just trying to do things to raise money," Fair Association manager Ellen Sietmann said.
Sietmann says the Friends of DuPage County Fair hope to offset new expenses incurred by the state budget cuts through the Spirits of DuPage fundraiser and by selling beer and wine in the festival's first beer garden, which will be open each day of the festival.
"It's something that we made a move on to help strengthen the fair and help as a revenue generator to help offset some of the funding issues that have been occurring," Fair President Jim McGuire said.
The fair begins Wednesday, July 27, and runs through Sunday, July 31, at the DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.
The Spirits of DuPage fundraiser will host 15 to 20 different micro and craft breweries from 6:30-9:30 p.m. today in the Grandstand area. Tickets for the event cost $40.
Despite the loss of significant state funding, fair admission for adults was lowered to $8 this year from the previous fee of $10. Entry is $3 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for kids 2 and younger.
Sietmann said the board also organized fair specials to attract families during tough economic times. Seniors are admitted free from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday, and today is $1 Day for kids, when fair admission and rides cost only $1 each.
"We just felt like everyone is kind of hurting," Sietmann said. "Things are tight and we're trying to help them."
Sietmann is unsure whether state funding will be reinstated to help the fair.
"They're working in Springfield on it, so we really don't know what will happen," she said.
Meyer said this year the fair was able to maintain a budget "almost identical" to last year's through fundraising and the reallocation of funds to different programs.
Organizers were not forced to cut programming and will keep with tradition in hosting a five-day carnival alongside the fair. A MegaPass for discounted rides may be purchased before the fair for $20 and used from 11 a.m. until close today, Thursday or Friday. Unlimited ride passes are good for one day only and include the price of fair admission. Pay One Price carnival specials are also offered for purchase at the fairgrounds.
Today children ages 3 to 12 can enjoy any of the carnival's rides for just $1, though a sheet of 10 ride coupons is the minimum amount that can be purchased.
Sietmann hopes DuPage residents will come to treat the fair "kind of like a staycation" where they can save money and have a good time.
Organizers also have added a number of new attractions to the 57th annual county fair to spark public interest.
For the first time the fair will offer an open reptile show for fairgoers to view displays of local slithering serpents and the like.
"We realize that we probably have more families and kids who are raising reptiles like snakes than the hogs, cows and dairy animals in the past," AgVentureland Chairman Tom Meyer said.
The fair also will host the County Craft Faire and Farmer's Market for the first time in the lower level of the grandstand.
McGuire said the fair hopes to attract 200,000 visitors over the course of the five days.
"There's over a million people living in DuPage County," he said. "I'd like to see 20 percent of them out there."
If you goWhat: DuPage County Fair
When: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, July 27-31
Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
Cost: $8 for adults, $3 for ages 3 to 12, free for younger children; free for seniors from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday