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Corn Fest’s return to downtown almost complete

DeKALB – It’s nearly a done deal: Corn Fest will be returning to downtown DeKalb this coming Labor Day weekend.

The DeKalb City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday to petition the Illinois Department of Transportation to shut down Lincoln Highway from 3 p.m. Aug. 29 to 9 p.m. Sept. 1. Aldermen Tom Teresinski and Monica O’Leary of the 2nd and 7th Wards, respectively, were not present for the vote.

Corn Fest chairwoman Lisa Angel said the majority of downtown businesses wanted the festival back on Lincoln Highway.

“They weren’t getting the foot traffic into their businesses,” Angel said. “So that’s why they’re very excited ... to have all of these out-of-town people, as well as local people, come to the downtown and see what we’ve done.”

While each of the aldermen was excited to see Corn Fest return to downtown, a lot of the debate Monday focused on whether the City Council should do something to further favor local vendors over out-of-town vendors at the festival.

“That should be the highlight. Our local business should be the highlight,” 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson said. “Those people are paying the taxes as a local business owner. ... We’re paying the bill, our taxpayers are paying the bill.”

Angel said local vendors are given priority in terms of fees and application availability. A local not-for-profit agency pays $250 and a local business pays $450 for their Corn Fest booth. An out-of-town vendor pays $900.

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker contemplated having out-of-town vendors pay an extra $300 in an effort to collect on lost sales tax. City Manager Mark Biernacki said out-of-town vendors only pay sales tax if they elect to. But vendors who haven’t paid are barred from registering for Corn Fest the next year.

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said it wasn’t the council’s business to micromanage Corn Fest.

“As we learned tonight, everyone is an expert on Corn Fest and how it should be run,” Povlsen said. “That’s why we have a committee.”

Baker eventually dropped the idea.

The festival will be located on the north side of the train tracks; Baker noted that the city has been lucky that no one has been injured by the trains during the festival.

Angel said they have the majority of the festival planned out, but they are working on a number of details. Within 30 to 60 days, they should have a street plan ready, she said.

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