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Mild temperatures help DuPage County Fair get off to a fast start

Race fans crowd close track during pig race DuPage County Fair WheatWednesday July 24 2013. | JCunningham~For Sun-Times Medi ORG

Race fans crowd close to the track during a pig race at the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT:

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Updated: August 27, 2013 6:13AM

It’s good to be cool.

That was the thought of the organizers of the 59th annual DuPage County Fair, which got off to a promising start Wednesday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. The fair runs through Sunday.

“You can’t beat the weather,” Jim McGuire, DuPage County Fair Association president said, noting how hot it was last week. “It’s just awesome.”

The day began with a trickle of visitors after the 8 a.m. opening, but by noon the parking lot was full and officials were directing motorists into auxiliary parking accommodations.

“We are way ahead of schedule,” McGuire said.

This year, to make the experience more family-friendly, the association made a slight adjustment to the layout of the fair by separating the children’s carnival from the main carnival.

Also new are several activities, including a pie-eating contest, a bale-tossing contest for men over 18, and a husband-calling contest for wives over 18.

But judging from the crowds, the most popular new feature was the “Wild World of Animals,” a traveling wildlife show featuring 85 different exotic species not likely to be found in your typical pet store.

The usual array of livestock exhibits include houses for beef and dairy cattle, poultry and rabbits, goats, and a swine building complete with a sign informing fairgoers that pork is the most popular meat in the world.

Other agricultural exhibits include sheep-shearing demonstrations, milking demonstrations, a petting zoo and pony rides.

Back for its third year at the fair is the Beer Tent, sponsored by attorney Michael Jeffery Gunderson.

The Exhibition Building held vendors from around the county and made room for several political displays.

“I’m here every year,” said former Naperville Township Trustee May Yurgaitis while she handed out gifts to visitors at the DuPage Republican booth.

Not to be outdone were DuPage Democrats, with their literature showing 17 DuPage Democrats elected to county, state, and federal offices, up from a mere four a few years ago.

“That’s progress,” Duncan Hughes, Democratic precinct committeeman from Naperville, said.

Meanwhile, DuPage Libertarians struggled to get some attention from politically-minded fairgoers.

“We’re just letting people know we exist,” Naperville resident James Waldron said.

The DuPage County Fair is a regular stop on the state’s circuit of livestock judging contests, and the people who brought their animals to show were standing ready to compete.

DeKalb High School freshman Elena Halverson raises Duroc and mixed-breed pigs and regularly shows her animals.

“I won Kane County last week,” she said of winning first place for gilt, or young female, pigs.

Don Fidler shows Herefords, Angus and short-hair cows raised on his Sycamore farm.

“They’re for beef production,” he said.

The animal exhibits proved popular with a large part of the crowd.

“We come every day,” West Chicago mom Karrie Viscogliosi, said as her son Miles fed the cattle at the petting zoo. “We wait all year for this.”

At the “Wild World of Animals” exhibit, the handlers wowed the audience with a warthog, a Mandrill monkey, a giant cobra and a spotted leopard.

The handler noted the dangers that the mandrills and leopards faced coping with modernity, calling them “basically walking extinct animals.”

Santa Fe, N.M., resident Kim Moore said that it was the second year she had come to the fair while visiting family. Her son loved the snakes, while her niece seemed more interested in the food court.

“Some of us do like the giant cookies,” Moore said.

But with all of the animals on display, Jim McGuire said that the biggest attraction was usually the Demolition Derby on Sunday.

“We’ve had it 48 of the 59 years of the fair,” he said, “and we always sell it out.”

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