Exotic animals, demo derby highlight DuPage Fair

By Sean Hammond
Updated 7/23/2013 2:36 PM
  • The DuPage County Fair returns Wednesday to Wheaton and runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day through Sunday at 2015 Manchester Road.

    The DuPage County Fair returns Wednesday to Wheaton and runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day through Sunday at 2015 Manchester Road. Daily Herald file photo

The animal kingdom is coming to the DuPage County Fair, and this year that goes beyond typical barnyard denizens like sheep, pigs and cows.

When the fair opens Wednesday for its annual five-day celebration at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton, it will include a new exhibit called the "Wild World of Animals," featuring such exotic creatures as a 13-foot python, a warthog and a mandrill.

"These are the kind of the animals you'd see on David Letterman," said Jim McGuire, president of the DuPage County Fair Association. "Kids can learn about and see some of the stuff they saw in 'The Lion King.'"

Most kids will know the warthog as the animal depicted by the fun-loving Pumbaa from the Disney movie, but the sub-Saharan African pig will not be the only Lion King animal represented at the fair. The mandrill is a lesser-known primate depicted by Rafiki -- the loony, staff-carrying monkey who gives Simba advice when he needs it most.

The mandrill and more can be seen at the fair as it celebrates its 59th year.

In addition to the Wild World of Animals, the fair will be bringing back many fan-favorites, including its Demolition Derby.

"I think people like to see drivers go crazy in a car," McGuire said of the spectacle that is the derby. "They all pick out a favorite and cheer them on throughout the day."

The demolition derby will have shows at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

And while McGuire said you will likely never find him in the drivers seat of a car down in the dirt pit, he understands the allure and enjoys seeing the multigenerational families it brings out -- grandfathers and their sons and grandsons sharing a day watching the derby together.

Organizers won't know for certain how many cars will be bashing each other until derby day, but McGuire is hoping clear weather in the forecast will result in plenty of vehicles to pit against one another.

Another favorite being brought back to the fair is the Spirit of DuPage beer and wine tasting fundraising event. Twenty area restaurants will be represented, including Maggiano's, Al's Pizza, Augustino's and East China Inn. More than 40 beer vendors will be present -- including Leinenkugel's and New Belgium brewing companies -- as well as 16 wine vendors. Tickets cost $40, with the proceeds helping to fund the fair.

"It's a good fundraising event to support the fair," McGuire said. "The $40 fee covers fair admission and the beer and wine."

General admission to the fair is $10 for adults and $4 for children ages 3 to 12. Children younger than 3 are free, as are seniors 60 years and older. The fair runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

Volunteers run much of the fair and more than 300 of them will be on the grounds helping ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. McGuire, who has been involved with the fair for 12 years, is grateful to the volunteers -- some of whom have been around since the first fair 59 years ago -- and is excited to get this year's party started.

"I know the kids really get into the hands-on stuff," he said, "the tractor rides and pony rides. But I think the Wild World of Animals will be a hit this year."

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