Farms that once dotted the landscape in DuPage County long have been replaced by subdivisions and strip malls.
Still, the largest reminder of the county’s agricultural past — the DuPage County Fair — continues to educate tens of thousands of visitors while entertaining them with live music, carnival rides and diet-busting food.
DuPage County Fair
When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, through Sunday, July 29
Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton.
Tickets: $15 for adults; $7.50 for seniors, and $8 for kids 3-12; military personnel free with ID.
“Our mission is to keep people informed about the important role that agriculture plays in all of our lives,” said Jim McGuire, fair association manager.
The education and fun begin Wednesday when the annual celebration starts its five-day run at the county fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.
There’s going to be a circus, rodeo and demolition derby in the grandstand. If animals are your thing, there will be hundreds of them as soon as the gates open at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The pigs, goats, cows, rabbits and other animals will be competing for ribbons and prize money.
Organizers say the animals are one of the main ways the fair educates residents about farming and DuPage’s agricultural roots.
“Being in this area, more and more of us are far removed from the farm,” McGuire said. “So it’s an opportunity for them to come in, see things they don’t get to see on a regular basis, and learn.”
Areas such as Ag-Ventureland will give fairgoers the opportunity to see a variety of farming-related exhibits, including blacksmithing, antique tractors, sheep shearing, wood carvers, corn grinding and embryology (chicks hatching).
The fair also allows community members to showcase their talents. There will be competitions for everything from woodworking and photography to floral design and food.
Of course, many of us really like carnival rides and festival food — and the fair will have plenty of both.
The fair has more than 30 vendors in two food courts and is themed as “the original street food festival.”
“We pushed to get more variety,” said McGuire, adding that vendors were required to submit their menus to fair organizers. “We wanted a nice selection and a lot of choices.”
So while the corn dogs, funnel cakes and cream puffs are back, McGuire said you can expect new dishes, too.
“There’s going to be some vegan food,” he said. “We have Asian noodles and we also have a guy doing steak sirloin tip sandwiches.”
The main food court will be in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds. The second food court will be on the north end of the site near the beer tent.
In addition, the fair will have two separate areas for carnival rides — one for young children and the other for older thrill-seekers. McGuire said there will be at least 30 rides, including two Ferris wheels.
Fairgoers will have several spots to enjoy music. Michael Lynch, who was a contestant on “The Voice,” will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday on the beer tent stage. And the Neverly Brothers will perform at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the main food court stage. Other musical performances include 7th heaven at 7 p.m. Wednesday; New Odyssey at 6 p.m. Friday; and Rick Lindy at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Some new additions to the fair will be a Dino Mania show featuring animatronic dinosaurs and Canines in the Clouds, an acrobatic dog show highlighting the skills of canine athletes. Pig races also are making a return to the fair.
Like previous years, there will be a dog adoption area, petting zoo, pony rides and a monarch butterfly garden. In addition, the fair is once again dedicating an area to celebrate Hispanic culture. El Palenque will be open over the weekend and include musical performances, food and a giant Jenga game.
One change this year is that the fair will have all-inclusive tickets. So for the price of admission, you can enjoy the entertainment in the grandstand. And there will be something in the grandstand during each day of the fair.
The High Flying Pages Aerial Thrill Show will be the main act on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then modern-day cowboys will be competing during the Latting Rodeo at 2 p.m. Saturday.
A longtime staple at the fair — the demolition derby — returns to the grandstand at 2 p.m. Sunday. A large audience is expected to watch the automobile duel, where drivers bash cars into each other until only one car is working.
“People love the demo derby,” McGuire said. “It’s tradition.”