The 60th annual DuPage County Fair kicks off Wednesday, with good weather and big crowds expected.
In addition to the standard attractions, including livestock exhibits, 4H competitions, carnival rides, musical acts and food vendors, the fair boasts several firsts this year.
One is a certified rodeo, as opposed to the horse riding exhibitions of previous years.
“This is an actual rodeo, with real cowboys,” Fair Association President Chuck Ingram said.
The riders will compete for points on their professional circuit as they would at any other sanctioned rodeo.
The Axe Women Loggers of Maine will display their talents for the audience all five days. The women will be available to teach log-rolling, but one of their other skills will not be slated for audience participation.
“They will be throwing axes,” Ingram said.
Other new attractions include Oscar the Robot, Woody’s Big Cat Display, a bags competition and more.
The Horse Show is expanded this year, with professional riders from Germany displaying their expertise.
For the truly adventurous, this year will be the first “Oder Eater” competition, held on Sunday to determine just which visitor has the stinkiest sneakers.
The dog adoption feature allows visitors to take home family pets from local shelters and has become a big hit with the community at past fairs.
“This is the fourth year and we’ve adopted out over 50 dogs,” Ingram said.
The Spirits of DuPage beer garden is back for the third year on Friday night, with 14 local brewers, eight wineries and several local restaurants serving finger food.
DuPage County has grown substantially since the fair’s inaugural year of 1954, when the population was about 200,000.
The 2011 census said 917,000 people live in DuPage, and the growth has transformed DuPage from a primarily agricultural area with small towns into a thriving suburban center, second in population only to Cook County in the state.
The change is not lost on DuPage officials, who last fall formed a task force of government, business and real estate leaders to study if the County Fairgrounds was the best use of the county-owned land at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.
Currently the fair leases the property from the county for $1,350 per year, but with the county formally analyzing its use, some feel the handwriting is on the wall.
“We’ve been attending their meetings,” Ingram said. “In the beginning we weren’t even invited.”
But Ingram stressed that no one involved with the Fair Association has any insight as to what the task force may decide, or when that decision will be made.
County spokesperson Johnna Kelly communicated by email that the task force was still gathering input from key stakeholders.
“They are continuing to work on developing recommendations for the best and highest use options for the land,” read the email. “At this point we anticipate the task force will deliver a report to the County Board later this year.”
With no obvious replacement property for the fair, Ingram hopes for the best, while stressing the relevance of the fair to DuPage residents and their everyday lives.
“One of the main things, especially for DuPage, is that people can find out where their food comes from,” he said. “They get to talk to the people who raise the animals and that’s important in our county … it’s good wholesome family fun at a reasonable price.”
Ingram also pointed out that the Fair Association leases out the property to many other groups, including schools, clubs, fire and police departments and Homeland Security officials at a reasonable rate.
“There is always something going on here,” he said.
Ingram is in his first year as president, but has served with the Fair Association since 1999.
“It’s been really busy and it’s a tough job,” he said. “But I enjoy doing it.”Tags: DuPage County, DuPage County Fair
The DuPage County Fair is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.
Admission for adults is $10, $4 for children 4 to 12 years old. Children 2 and younger get in free. Military personnel with ID also get in free. Seniors 62 years old and older get in free until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.