Heat cuts into attendance at many area fests

Sweltering temps, storms cut into attendance at many -- but not all -- area events

  • Crews work Thursday to clean up Naperville's Ribfest grounds. Festival organizers say extreme heat and the aftermath of severe storms combined to cut attendance by nearly 25 percent.

      Crews work Thursday to clean up Naperville's Ribfest grounds. Festival organizers say extreme heat and the aftermath of severe storms combined to cut attendance by nearly 25 percent. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

By Annalisa Rodriguez
Updated 7/6/2012 2:43 PM

Extreme heat and, in some cases, the aftermath of serious storms combined this week to stifle attendance at many festivals and other outdoor events from Naperville to Wauconda, organizers say.

The good news is forecasters are predicting more normal temperatures for this weekend's celebrations. But for some fests, the cooler temperatures will arrive too late.


Ribfest attendance takes dive

Relentless heat and severe storms that pounded parts of DuPage County contributed to roughly a 25 percent drop in attendance at the Naperville Exchange Club's 25th annual Ribfest celebration in Knoch Park, organizers said.

Julie Lichter, public relations and marketing chairwoman, said there was no damage at the park, but power outages elsewhere kept some potential visitors home.

People were not thinking about attending a festival when their food was rotting in the fridge and their houses were damaged, Lichter said.

"Everyone had to take care of their families," she said. "We're certain some people had to change their plans."

A few folks who did come out became ill from the heat, but emergency medical technicians were on hand.

"As far as everything else, it went smoothly," Lichter said. "Maybe the smaller crowds were more comfortable."

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Lichter said service organizations that benefit from Ribfest proceeds will not be affected by the drop in attendance because ticket prices were higher this year.

Frontier Day challenges

Led by co-chairs Janelle Kulisch and Ruth Hierl, Frontier Days festival volunteers in Arlington Heights were checking with workers throughout the day Thursday to make sure they stayed hydrated.

While the sidewalks and parkways were packed with people for Wednesday's Fourth of July parade, Kulisch said the Frontier Days sports activities -- golf skills; punt, pass & kick football skills -- had about half the number of participants as usual.

Despite that, she said there has been only a small decrease in attendance overall.

"It was a very good crowd for the concert (Wednesday) night," Kulisch said.


Bartlett fest hard hit

Bartlett 4th of July Festival committee Secretary Cathy August said attendance was way down Wednesday.

"It zapped everybody," she said of the heat. "Hopefully we'll make up for it in the next couple days."

The festival runs through Sunday.

Wauconda cancels market

The high heat index caused the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce to cancel its weekly Farmers Market on Thursday.

Sandy Hartogh, chamber executive director, said she's never seen a cancellation due to heat since she started working with the chamber three years ago.

"It's usually rain or shine," she said. "We've seen coolers floating down Main Street with torrential rain, but with the heat advisories, it's just too hot out."

With more normal temperatures on the way, the chamber expects to resume its market on July 12.

Taste of Lombard gets boost

Although it's dealing with power outages, ComEd on July 4 paid for the first 1,000 people through the gate at Taste of Lombard, which continues through Saturday at Madison Meadow.

Even with the help, attendance dipped slightly, said Jackie West, president of the Lombard Jaycees, which runs the festival.

West said attendance at the fireworks display was close to normal, although leading up to the display organizers spent three hours a night watering the grounds to reduce the chance of fire.

"That's been a lot of extra effort, but it's worth it," West said. "We knew other towns were canceling their fireworks, so we thought we'd put on a good show."

Mount Prospect sees drop

Numbers were down in Mount Prospect, too, Fire Chief John Malcolm said. Still, he said, the turnout for the Fourth of July parade, festival and fireworks was respectable.

Good turnout at new fest

Meanwhile, at Northwest Fourth-Fest, a new festival put on at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates by Elgin, Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park and Hanover Township, organizers said turnout has been better than expected.

An estimated 35,000 people came on Wednesday, well more than the 20,000 expected, Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said. The festival got more crowded as evening fell.

With misting tents and a Cool Zone inside the Sears Centre Arena, people were able to keep cool.

"Most of the time people just needed 10 to 15 minutes out of the heat," McLeod said.

"We were being very good stewards of our finances going into this event," she said. "We met our marks on some of the revenue side."

Hartogh said the village's Farmers Market, which debuted last week, wasn't well attended by vendors or customers. A few vendors canceled last week due to the extreme weather conditions.

She said the temperature is a health risk since the majority of the food needs to be refrigerated.

• Daily Herald staff writers Clara Bush and Jennifer Earl contributed to this report.

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