WINNETKA – When school gets out every June, it’s a tradition for Winnetka children and others from neighboring communities to head directly to the Winnetka Children’s Fair to mark the beginning of summer.
The fair, hosted by the Winnetka Community Nursery School (WCNS), celebrates its 73rd anniversary this year. It will be held on June 8-9 on the Village Green in Winnetka.
“It is very much the same fair it was 73 years ago,” Elizabeth Kelley, co-chair of the Children’s Fair, told DailyNorthShore.
It’s a very popular tradition in Winnetka, with organizers expecting about 4,000 people to attend, as they do every year. “It’s really neat that we have been able to continue this tradition for the kids in this community for so long,” Kelley said, who attended the fair as a child growing up in Winnetka.
Like Kelley, many parents have fond memories of attending the fair as children and look forward to sharing the experience with their own kids. That’s probably why fair organizers generally try to keep the experience the same, using old-school paper tickets instead of anything digital.
“We don’t want to lose the magic,” Kelley said.
Children love to play games at the arcade, and then choose a toy from the prize truck. The giant slide is also really popular, and of course, the candy castle is, too. Younger children enjoy Kiddie Land, where they can ride ponies and check out a petting zoo. Organizers added a tent last year where WCNS teachers host an art project and are available to talk about the preschool.
The event takes a lot of advance planning by volunteer board members of the school, as well as the nearly 600 volunteers who pitch in throughout the fair. “It’s what makes it so special. You see people in the community stepping up and volunteering because they love the fair,” Kelley said.
While people flock to the fair because of its tradition, over the years some things have been added. Kelley said this year organizers are hoping to get a local dad-band to play on Friday evening. For the first time this year, the fair will be open until 7 p.m. on Friday evening. Organizers hope families will decide to linger, enjoy some music, and have a picnic on the green.
While the fair is all fun-and-games, it also benefits a great cause. WCNS is a nonprofit preschool that has been an early education pillar of Winnetka for over 70 years. All of the proceeds raised from the fair go toward the play-based nursery school.
“It’s a wonderful school in the community,” Kelley said, whose three young children attend.
For more information about the Winnetka Community Nursery School and the Children’s Fair go to www.winnetkacommunitynurseryschool.org.