DuPage looks to extend lease with county fair association
DuPage County Board members are set to vote Tuesday on a three-year land lease extension for the DuPage County Fair Assocation to continue operating the county fairgrounds in Wheaton.
In a meeting last week, the county board's public works committee compromised on a resolution suggesting an extension through Sept. 30, 2023. The lease, which dates back to 1976 and was amended in 2010 to allow for liquor sales, was set to expire this year.
"We've been working with the county for a long-term lease for a couple of years now," said Jim McGuire, executive director of the fair association. "And obviously with this COVID situation, everyone's world has been turned on its head."
The three-year lease extension is a stopgap for the county and the fair association to continue negotiations on a long-term lease. The fair association is a nonprofit group that organizes the county fair and leases the land from the county for other rental events.
Board member Mary FitzGerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn initially had pushed for a five-year lease extension. Ozog then suggested a three-year timetable as a compromise so commercial art and hobby shows could do multiyear bookings in advance.
"This year the fairground has really proven its worth to the county at the time of the primary election and especially the COVID testing," Ozog said. "I personally believe we need to keep the fairgrounds. I think it has a great deal of value to the community."
By contrast, board member Brian Krajewski of Downers Grove suggested the county should have more control over the 42-acre property along Manchester Road. Krajewski also took issue with the annual four-day county fair losing money in recent years.
Another issue brought up at the meeting involved the health and safety of petting zoos and other animal-related shows.
"Once a facility like this is gone, it's gone," McGuire said of the potential loss of the fairgrounds if a long-term lease cannot be negotiated. "Similar to a park or forest preserve, it's a place for the community to come together to do many different things."
In addition to ongoing COVID-19 testing, the fairgrounds will host early voting beginning Thursday.