One of the things that is not on Jim McGuire’s to-do list this year is crafting an announcement that the DuPage County Fair will be canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
And he couldn’t be happier.
That’s what happened in 2020 and 2021, and it may have been the only times in the 180-year history of the event that the show did not go on. For sure, it’s the first time it happened since it moved from North Central College in Naperville to the DuPage Event Center and Fairgrounds in Wheaton in 1955.
But there are still some changes to note about the 2022 version of the festival.
The fair has been modified from five days to three. It opens Friday and runs through Sunday.
“It’s nice to put it back together and invite everyone to come back out and celebrate again,” said McGuire, the CEO and manager of the fairgrounds. “It’s been too long. It feels like we’re starting over again.”
The pandemic wiped out some vendors, so McGuire and his staff had to find some new ones. The two-year layoff gave staff a chance to come up with some new ideas, and officials also picked up an idea or two from the Community Arts Festival and Ribfest, which commenced earlier in the summer.
The most interesting change will come with Building No. 2. McGuire said it was the first structure built on the fairgrounds and the 7,000-square-foot historic room will be used as a beer garden area for entertainment.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “We’ve had other events there. It had good sound and will be bigger than any of the tents we’ve used in the past.”
Entertainment at the Beer Garden on Friday will be Sammy and the Knights at 6 pm and the Fuze Band at 8 pm Saturday’s entertainment will feature Lake Effect at 2 pm, Lucas Sanor at 4 pm, Bob McGuire at 6 pm and Cap-N-Funk and the Groove Train at 8 p.m
Sunday’s music will be provided by the Baydrifter Band at 2 pm, the New Odyssey Guy at 4 pm and the Two Beer Tommy Band at 6 pm
Physically, there will be some changes as the vendors and Carnival will be placed in the south end of the facility while the north end will feature garden tours and an area for demonstrations.
“With a couple of years without much activity, it’s a nice way to come back and rebuild ourselves and get rebooted,” McGuire said.
Other events throughout the weekend include sheep herding and archery demonstrations, a watermelon-eating contest, a 4-H show at the animal barns, a karaoke contest, a talent contest and a pie-eating contest. There will also be an arts area.
Tickets for adults are $10, seniors ages 62-older $5, children ages 3-12 $5, children ages 2-under free and active military personnel with identification free as well.
The fair is also offering a mega pass for $30 for admission and Carnival rides for one day. That price changes to $35 at the gate.
The fair will be open from 10 am to 11 pm on Friday, noon to 11 pm on Saturday and noon to 10 pm on Sunday.
It is located at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton and officials urge patrons to enter at County Farm Road and the main entrance.
McGuire said before the pandemic, between 5,000 and 20,000 people showed up each day during the five-day runs. He is hoping for the high end of that attendance spectrum each day now that it has been slimmed down to the weekend.
Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.