A suburban Chicago arts festival that’s been held for nearly a half-century is moving to northwestern Indiana following a dispute with Evanston officials, organizers said.
The Custer Fair’s move to Whiting, Indiana, comes after Evanston officials sabotaged the event’s attendance numbers last year, leaving the street fair in debt to the city, said Tammy Szostek, who organizes the festival with her husband, Steve.
She said the move to Indiana was driven by that debt and new fees imposed by Evanston.
“We just couldn’t afford it,” Tammy Szostek told the Chicago Sun-Times.
She contends that the fair, which had been held in Evanston for 48 years, took a big hit last year when the city forced them to install either expensive gates for crowd control, or have the city provide vehicles to serve the same purpose.
They opted for the vehicles, which were cheaper, but faced a public backlash when the city parked a large Cook County mobile command labeled “Department of Homeland Security” near the front gate. She said people thought the van housed immigration agents.
The two-day festival’s attendance dropped to less than 10,000 last year after previously averaging about 85,000 a year, she said. Bad weather contributed to that decline.
Szostek said the fair, which was free to attend, made no money last year and organizers still owe the city $3,500.
Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said there were many issues with the fair, including organizers’ failure to pay the city and their non-profit partners.
“Bottom line, the city can’t be in the business of subsidizing private-sector losses,” he said.
The festival is now planned for June 20-21 at Wolf Lake in Whiting.