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Recent upgrades make Kane County Fairgrounds attractive as a venue

ST. CHARLES – Lisa Diersen – one of the founders of a horse festival that debuted in St. Charles last year – said there was no question about the venue organizers hoped to use: the Kane County Fairgrounds.

“It was always the goal to be in the fairgrounds because they have the size that allows us to grow, and we hope to grow into a pretty large festival,” Diersen said.

The Festival of the Horse and Drum nabbed an August weekend at the fairgrounds – a feat that could be described as lucky considering the number of events the fairground hosts throughout the year.

With so many regular customers – including the Kane County Flea Market – Kane County Fair Board President Larry Breon said it can be difficult for a new organization to book facilities at the fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles.

“People have a tough time finding a time for the usability,” he said. “Just about almost every weekend is booked, and sometimes multiply booked.”

Breon, whose history with the fairgrounds started with his involvement in 4-H and spans 40-plus years, said those who haven’t visited the property recently might remember it as it used to be – “dirty, dusty and not real modern.”

But upgrades about five years ago brought the Prairie Events Center – an air-conditioned exhibit hall that includes a full kitchen and space suitable for weddings – to the property as well as amenities for motor homes, including an independent bathroom and shower area and hookups for electricity and sewer disposal, Breon said.

“That kind of brought us up to date on facilities,” he said. “People wanted a nice facility.”

Wanda Robinson of the Kane County Flea Market said the Prairie Events Center provides more space for dealers who would rather be inside than in a barn.

“That building alone houses over 100 dealers in there,” she said.

Amy Egolf, executive director of the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it is an asset to have three expo centers – the fairgrounds, the DuPage Expo Center and the Mega Center at Pheasant Run Resort.

Nationally, she said, tourism numbers are up, but that increase is being driven by the transient market. The group market – which includes meetings and events for associations and corporate, social, military, education, religious and fraternal organizations – continues to lag.

“Having three expo centers is a boon to greater St. Charles, as well as the state as it allows us to be competitive with other destinations suited to serving the group market,” Egolf said.

As for the Festival of the Horse and Drum, Diersen said the fairgrounds has facilities to meet the needs of its various activities.

The festival is set for mid-August, but those wanting to check out the fairgrounds sooner can attend the 146th annual Kane County Fair, which begins July 16.

Breon said the five-day event will give people a chance to experience the modern fairgrounds if they haven’t already.

“A lot of people haven’t experienced it for a number of years,” he said. “I think they’d have a good time.”

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