9 new things to expect at the DuPage County Fair
Call us traditionalists.
But when we go to a county fair, we want nostalgia. We want cream puffs and antique tractors and singing cowboys.
At the DuPage County Fair, we can count on all that. We can count on going back to a simpler time, when we stop and smell the sunflowers and talk with neighbors about the summer's crop of corn.
Fair organizers this year aren't looking to break with tradition, but they have made some changes that add to the old-fashioned fun.
And that's the kind of change we can get behind. Here's a look at nine new things to expect for the fair's five-day run starting Wednesday, July 26, in Wheaton:
Back in the day, the fair used to book some of the biggest names in country music. The weekend entertainment will return to those roots with David Nail headlining a Saturday night concert. The music video for his 2014 hit "Whatever She's Got" has more than 57 million views on YouTube. He released his latest album, "Fighter," in July 2016.
The fair has lured another chart-topper in Rachel Platten, who will perform Friday night. Platten's anthem, "Fight Song," has become a rallying cry for cancer survivors and patients battling other serious illnesses.
Organizers have heard Platten's fans from as far as Pennsylvania and Florida are making the trip to the fairgrounds.
"She doesn't do a lot of shows in different areas, so these people who were inspired by her music to help them through a tough time in life, they're coming out to see her," says Jim McGuire, manager of the nonprofit DuPage County Fair Association.
3. Lawn seating
To accommodate the larger crowds expected for this year's concerts, organizers will set up a main stage on the fairground's northwest edge, where there are plenty of lawn and bleacher seats.
Nearby is a new monarch way station planted with colorful flowers that attract and feed butterflies. "We're going to make it kind of a casual, open, fun space to be hanging out," McGuire says.
4. Fiesta de Feria
The event celebrating Latino culture was so well received in 2016 that organizers have moved the Fiesta to a bigger space just east of the main stage. On Saturday and Sunday, each vendor booth will occupy two stalls of a repurposed horse barn, with flower baskets hanging off the eaves.
The vibe? A market square with food and traditional mariachi bands.
5. Free tickets
Students in K-8 schools across DuPage County can get a free pass for the opening day. Kids have to enter their name and select the eligible school on the fair's website, Dupagecountyfair.org, to receive a promo code.
Then, students can order a Wednesday ticket online and enter the code at checkout. McGuire hopes the promotion will help expose the event to a wider audience and get the next generation "invested into the fair."
6. Wheeling around
Three dozen Radio Flyer wagons will be available for rent for families toting little ones around the sprawling fairgrounds. The new mode of transportation also is a nod to Radio Flyer's 100th anniversary.
7. Vroom, vroom
Owners will park their hot wheels for a classic car show that will run all five days of the fair.
When they're not in the show ring, cattle, sheep, pigs and goats will make their home in the fair's livestock barns. But here's an exotic twist from Down Under: the petting zoo in the kid-friendly "Ag-Ventureland" will feature a kangaroo.
9. Breaking into the biz
Farmers and 4-H'ers usually get the same questions when crowds file past livestock pens. But instead of giving the same old answers, 4-H club leaders are creating an educational space at one barn entrance.
In an area they're calling "Barn Biz," visitors can watch looping videos about 4-H, read recipes and take a look at agricultural products. The space also will include a section on frequently asked questions such as: Why do you cover sheep with blankets? The answer: To keep their wool clean before show competitions.
DuPage County FairWhen: Wednesday, July 26, through Sunday, July 30
Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for seniors; $4 for kids 3 to 12, and free for kids 2 and younger and military personnel with an ID
Info: (630) 668-6636 or dupagecountyfair.org