Head out to the DuPage County Fairgrounds for the prize winning sheep but don’t miss the butterflies. A short walk will take you to a garden alive with butterflies and bees busy keeping the flowers healthy and happy.

In 2016, Jim McGuire, Association Manager of the DuPage County Fair Association, decided he was tired of looking at the neglected areas behind the exhibition halls.  Instead of the discarded asphalt, branches, and what McGuire described as “all kinds of junk,” he saw potential. He asked himself how can we make this landscape more attractive, more inviting, more welcoming to the neighbors, the people, the community as a whole? 

McGuire was still looking for ideas for transforming the landscape when he attended a breakfast hosted by The Conservation Foundation. A presentation on the beauty and value of butterfly gardens planted a seed that grew into a plan after he visited the butterfly garden at TCF’s Naperville headquarters. McGuire wanted a landscape that was good for bees and butterflies.

Butterfly garden at McDonald Farm – The Conservation Foundation Headquarters, Naperville

McGuire’s vision quickly turned into a community project when word got out at a neighborhood meeting about what was happening at the Fairgrounds.  “We’d show up in the morning and there’d be pots filled with plants piled up by the door,” McGuire said. “People would be cleaning up their yards and bring plants over we could add.” He said a guy helping with a tractor told him about his mom in Bristol who had a lot of boulders, so he went out there and brought them back. The garden is designed in tiers to give it layers and the boulders are used as retaining walls, and also as places to sit.

A year later the butterfly garden was flourishing.  The diversity of native and ornamental flowers earned the garden certification by The Conservation Foundation as an environmentally friendly and sustainable landscape.

Fairground Butterfly Garden Jim Kleinwachter (l), Jim McGuire (r)

The butterfly garden is welcoming to butterflies and people.  It’s a place where people come to relax and connect with nature. Dog walkers enjoy it and the colorful floral display provides a background for wedding shoots. 

Educational signs positioned throughout the garden offer useful take aways and tips for attracting butterflies and bees to a garden.

“The idea is, that with help, anybody can do this on any kind of property,” said Jim Kleinwachter, program manager for The Conservation Foundation.

DuPage Event Center and Fairgrounds joined DuPage Monarch Project in 2022.

Bee Mural at the Fairgrounds painted by Leslie Roycroft, McKenzie Moon Paintings from an original design by Digi