For thousands of North Shore youth, the Winnetka Children’s Fair (WCF) is the signal that school is truly out for the summer.
Started as a backyard fundraiser for the Win- netka Community Nursery School (WCNS) in 1945, the event has blossomed over the last 74 years, filling Winnetka’s Village Green with thrill rides and carnival games, live music, attractions, and fun foods. Happening this year from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, June 7, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 8, the fair is expected to attract more than 4,000 attendees.
New highlights include a miniature golf course, which joins the climbing wall that debuted last year. There will be musical entertainment from North- field-based Bach to Rock Friday night, and Saturday during lunch hours—plus an “instrument petting zoo,” a hands-on musical fun space for children to strum guitars and ukuleles, bang hand drums, and shake maracas. Popular come-back rides include giant slides and swings, a Berry-Go-Round, Air Show, the Mini Himalaya, and pony and camel rides. There will also be hair painting, glitter tattoos and inflatables, plus try-your-skill games like High Striker, Shoot the Chute, and Dunk it, and food booths with hot dogs, brats, pizza, popcorn, Sno- cones, and cotton candy.
Given the warm glow of so many decades of fond fair memories, it’s tempting to imagine the fair happens magically. But the fair wouldn’t exist without the support of volunteers and corporate sponsors. Many more are needed.
“Volunteers are critical to the fair’s success,” says WCF co-chair Kristen Bilton. “People don’t realize that It takes between 500 and 600 people to run the 20-plus booths and attractions. I think that because this such a longstanding event, residents and attendees forget that the fair can’t operate without community support.”
In fact, the difficulty of finding volunteers has had the WCNS board contemplating whether they will need to close down, or offer fewer attractions
at future fairs, something they are reluctant to do. Trying to avoid this, the
WCNS board added two new members to the planning committee this year, specifically focused on spreading the word about the need for new volunteers.
“It is through the dedication of WCNS families past and present, local businesses, and community members that the fair comes to life,” says Miller.
“It’s also important to remember that while the fair is a lot of fun as a stand-alone event, the work at WCNS that fair proceeds support, goes on throughout the year,” says Bilton.
For both Bilton and co-chair Colleen Burns, the 2017 and 2018 school year was their first at WCNS. “We were both so impressed at all that the directors, teachers, board members, and families do to create an incredible environment for young children to flourish” says Burns. Bilton says joining the WCNS board and becoming a co-chair of the fair committee helped make the transition to the suburbs easier. “I instantly became connected to the community,” she says.“Residents of Winnetka and neighboring towns have such fond memories and wonderful things to share about the Childrens Fair and I love that we are helping to create these same memories for our children.”
For Burns, whose family relocated to Winnetka from St. Louis in 2016, joining the WCNS board as a WCF co-chair has helped create friendships and given her the opportunity to, “contribute to something that is meaningful to my community and my children. It’s incredible to me that this event is something that has a common thread through multiple generations of family.”
The fair is WCNS’ largest annual fundraiser. Much of the $90,000 raised first pays for the fair itself. And then, with these expenses met, extra monies from the fundraiser go to help with the school’s operating expenses, school enhancements such as classroom furniture and supplies, teacher professional development, parent outreach, and community building.
Corporate sponsors who have helped WCNS fund the fair this year include Presenting Sponsor Coldwell Banker, and Platinum Sponsors: AHC Funds; @Properties; BLG Capital Advisors; BMO Harris Bank, Winnetka Branch; Chicago Flame- Proof; Hoffman Commercial Real Estate; LP Group; and Shore Capital Partners.
To learn more about how you can support WCNS and Winnetka Children’s Fair, visit winnetkacommunitynurseryschool.org/about-the-fair/.