DeKALB – Dorothy Clucas hopes that festival-goers keep the party alive in downtown DeKalb even after Corn Fest closes its doors Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Clucas is the service manager at O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub and believes that Corn Fest brings long- and short-term benefits to businesses like hers when it takes place among them.
“When it was here in the past, the restaurant, the downtown is packed,” Clucas said. “People go into every restaurant, every business. ... The biggest thing is bringing people that aren’t from DeKalb to the downtown area, so that when they come back they’re like, ‘Oh, remember O’Leary’s? Let’s go there.’ ”
For the past five years, the annual festival of music, carnival rides, food and drink was housed at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, but O’Leary’s and many other downtown businesses are hopeful that its return to the downtown area will be a boon.
“There’s just more of a sense of community when it’s right downtown,” Katie Gardner, a manager at Tapa La Luna, said. “It just has more of a hometown feel. We’re hoping that it attracts business, but it’s just going to be really good for the town.”
O’Leary’s and Tapa La Luna won’t have to deal with the main stage and beer garden area, which Corn Fest organizers plan to place near Locust and Second streets, but businesses located near there range from hopeful to downright pleased to have Corn Fest back.
“We’re glad to see it come back to where it originally started,” Todd Hendrey, co-owner of DeKalb Confectionary at Locust and Second, said. “It turns a good weekend into a great weekend.”
Mary Wilson has owned Hillside Restaurant on Second Street just north of Lincoln Highway since 1988 and she managed it before then, so she’s seen it all. Wilson thinks changes in the timing and in the setup of the event – further north of her restaurant’s outdoor patio – could prove positive.
“They used to put the entertainment here, and it would blare. You couldn’t even take an order,” Wilson said. “Now it’s on Locust [Street] facing east, so that’ll be great. It may be a better experience, so we’re being optimistic and positive about it.”
The owners of Cassie’s Popcorn were told that they’d have to relocate from the corner of Locust and Second, a spot that their trailer has occupied since May this year and for many months in 2012, but they took the news in stride, and have decided to move elsewhere in the downtown area for the weekend.
“It’s OK. I think we’re going to get more of the general public moving up town,” co-owner Troy Oltman said. “We think we’ll get more families in that area than staying here by the beer garden.”