Village Green likely out as Northbrook Days site for 2021
The Northbrook Civic Foundation remains in search of a host site for the 2021 Northbrook Days Festival, as it seems Village Green Park -- where it had been held for most years until 2019 -- is no longer an option.
The problem isn't the festival itself -- it's the carnival rides.
Northbrook Civic Foundation President Ellen Westel and Northbrook Days Festival Committee Chairman Matt Settler contacted Northbrook Park District Parks and Properties Director Ed Dalton on Sept. 15 to inquire about the use of park district space to host the 2021 festival, which will be its 96th.
Westel and Settler wanted to ensure the fest's carnival rides would be in the same park or lot as the rest of the attractions, and that the space would be available, rain or shine.
Park district officials told the civic foundation on Oct. 28 that the district must be able to cancel an event on its own property if the weather is bad, and carnival rides must be on asphalt or concrete to protect other surfaces.
The park district also said it could not provide a site to accommodate all the carnival rides in 2021, given the need for designated parking for programming at its facilities.
It suggested instead the possibility of "a two- or three-day food and music festival at Village Green, which would greatly reduce the wear-and-tear on our natural resources caused by the carnival rides."
Settler and the Civic Foundation believe the carnival rides are essential to the mission of Northbrook Days.
"They definitely play one of the most critical parts to us of raising funds," Settler said.
The largely volunteer-run event also has raised more than $3.2 million toward scholarships for college-bound students and grants for Northbrook organizations.
The foundation feels a food and music festival without rides would be less attractive to families with children.
"The event is intended to be a family event for the community," Settler said. "The money raised goes back to the community, and that's what it's all about. It's a very big event the community looks forward to every year. They can come and be together every year at one location.
"Kids having a great time on the rides has always been a reason why we love doing it."
Due to the coronavirus, this year the five-day festival was canceled for the first time, according to Northbrook Historical Society President Judy Hughes.
The festival committee turned its emphasis to its Grand Prize Raffle, and on Sept. 30 announced it had raised $38,000 through sales of raffle tickets.
Northbrook Days was moved in 2019 to a Northbrook Court parking lot from its usual spot at Village Green. Settler said that, after expenses, the festival raised around $40,000 toward grants and scholarships. A post on the Northbrook Days Twitter account said the 2018 festival, held at Village Green, raised $100,000.
The park, 1810 Walters Ave., had hosted the festival for the vast majority of its 95 years. In 2019 it shifted after the Park District roped off areas of Village Green that had been saturated by rain, eliminating space for the full complement of rides and other fest amenities.
"If we get the type of wet weather like we did the last three years with record rainfalls, if that happens over the Northbrook Days carnival time, we've got to protect the park," the park district's Dalton said.
One concern is rehabilitating the park for community use after the festival, but mainly preserving the park's historic oak trees.
Over the last decade, 10 to 11 trees of various species have been lost, Dalton said. While carnival rides and machinery over their root systems may not directly kill the trees, he said, over time it weakens them and makes them subject to disease and pests.
"As we were losing trees out there, we're like, 'OK, either this is going to become an amusement park for carnival rides or we're going to protect these 200- and 300-year-old trees,'" said Dalton, who added that the park district wants to continue to support the festival.
The Northbrook Civic Foundation and the Festival Committee encourage people to share ideas for a new venue and to participate in the 2021 planning process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Settler -- who had hoped to go to Village Green Park "one last time" -- said the festival committee has looked at different locations and may have identified a possible venue, but did not want to specify prematurely.
"It's just too early to be talking about it," he said.