When organizers of Corn Fest first decided to move the music festival from downtown DeKalb to the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, they characterized it as a temporary move.
Now it appears they want to keep their word.
With renovations complete in the downtown area, organizers have asked the DeKalb City Council to approve moving the free music festival back to downtown DeKalb for 2013.
We have used this space in the past to voice support for keeping the festival at the airport. The festival was cheaper to stage at the airport, a cost of $40,000 instead of $55,000 to $60,000, city officials have said. The airport site is easier for police to patrol, and the city was able to make money through the sale of parking passes.
The large amount of space at the airport allowed the festival to be larger in size and spread out over a large area, and there were lots of airplanes in the sky overhead, too.
But many people insisted that the festival just wasn’t the same without downtown as a backdrop. It felt like a festival in Anytown. There wasn’t enough shade, it wasn’t accessible to Northern Illinois University students, the parking charge wasn’t necessary and the shuttle bus was unappealing.
So, now Corn Fest is returning to downtown, but also moving weekends.
The shift to Labor Day weekend, which was made possible by the closing of a Rockford festival, makes sense. The city’s public safety resources should be less stressed by having the city’s largest festival in the weekend after move-in at NIU.
But the shift to Labor Day weekend could also hurt attendance, considering that weekend is a major travel holiday.
Even if the DeKalb City Council approves the move next week, and the Illinois Department of Transportation approves closing part of Lincoln Highway, Corn Fest probably will not look the same as it did years ago.
The layout will be different, as will the backdrop.
We are interested to see how the festival will look when it returns downtown. This year will be an important experiment in deciding whether the benefits of having the festival downtown truly do outweigh sacrifices in cost and convenience.