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Carol Stream

Despite increased attendance, DuPage officials to consider moving county fair

Although this year's DuPage County Fair saw increased attendance and will likely be profitable for the second year in a row, county officials are considering changing the location of the fairgrounds.

"Their lease goes through 2020, so we're going to have some discussions about what's the best use of that property in the future," said County Board member Grant Eckhoff. "It's a small area now for a county fair and it is sort of shoehorned in there."

Eckhoff is a member of the County Fair and Exposition Authority, which approves and manages money from the Fair and Exposition Fund. He said a task force will be created to examine the best use of the land where the fair is currently held.

"If you knew you were going to have a fair there for 50 more years, you'd do a lot of upgrades on the buildings and infrastructure and things like that," he said. "But there are eight years to go, and if it's not going to be there, we won't spend money on all that."

DuPage County Fair Manager Ellen Sietmann said attendance for this year's event may have been as high as 116,000 across five days, an increase of 4,000 over last year. She also estimated the fair turned a profit, in part thanks to a larger number of sponsors, although exact figures were unavailable because receipts and payments were still being processed.

That success comes only a year after the county hired consultants to assess the fair's falling attendance and lack of revenue.

Eckhoff said while he thought attendees would appreciate a bigger venue for events such as the fair, finding a space larger than the 42-acre spot the fairgrounds inhabit would prove difficult.

"We're looking for alternative sites, but right now nobody has come up with any," he said.

Sietmann said that next year's fair – the event's 60th anniversary – is already in the planning phase. She said that she welcomes all feedback, including from the County Board, but also said that the fairgrounds host more than just the fair.

"We do want to meet with Chairman [Dan] Cronin and give him our ideas of what we would like to improve," she said. "The fair is one week and it's very important, but we want to do things for the general public year round."

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