City of DeKalb responds to FAA Cornfest Letter



From Mark Biernacki:


The Chronicle called me yesterday about a possible story and referred me to your website regarding a supposed issue with the FAA and Cornfest. It just so happens that today (Wednesday), our staff met with the FAA and the State Division of Aeronautic about a variety of matters, including our annual update on this year’s Cornfest. In past years, our prime contacts have been with the State, with peripheral involvement by the FAA. No issues have ever been raised that would have jeopardized Cornfest being at the airport. This year, the FAA wanted to be more involved. Below, you will find an email that shows the approval from the FAA for this year’s event. Feel free to post.

Mark Biernacki
City Manager

—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:47 PM
To: Cleveland, Tom
Cc: Moore, Thomas; michael.p.irwin@;;
Subject: Corn Fest Follow-Up


Thanks for coming in today to discuss this year’s proposed Corn Fest and the requirements that must be met for a non-aeronautical event to be held at DeKalb – Taylor Municipal Airport.

As you are aware, our office is often contacted by concerned airport users regarding various issues at government agreement/obligated airports.  We are thrown into a role of facilitator or investigator by issues brought to our attention.  My previous email was definitely a fact finding mission to find out what all was involved in this event and why I had not been contacted in previous years.

Not having been involved in any coordination of the previous Corn Fests, I was unaware that there were some vintage aircraft on display.  While that does not make the total event an airshow or anything, it is something I didn’t know about  and helps show me that you are trying to put an aviation spin on the event and sell the airport to the community.  Many times a community only views an airport as a drain on the City, as opposed to an economical benefit that attracts businesses.

I did see some of the comments regarding my email (by the
community/citizens) on DeKalb County Online and have heard some feedback from others that FAA was intent on shutting down Corn Fest.  That is definitely not the case.  While we do not support the shutdown of an entire airport for a non-aeronautical event, partial closures of airports are possible, provided airport operations are not adversely affected.  While Airports Sponsors are obligated to ensure aeronautical use of dedicated airport property, the Grant Assurances also lay out the requirement under Grant Assurance 24. Fee and Rental Structure to be self-sustaining as possible from an economic standpoint.  This and the Grant Assurance regarding Airport Revenue were the key reason for my mentioning of receiving Fair Market Value for the event.

From our discussion today, the following is either being or will be coordinated by the airport for this year’s Corn Fest:

–  There will be a charge for parking for the event.  A daily and/or weekend charge/fee was mentioned.  Based on historical attendance figures, this could lead to revenue to the airport ranging between $30k to $50K.
Also, you mentioned in the previous years’ events that the sales tax collected at the event went back into the airport budget.  These two sources of income (if close to the estimated amount) would, in my opinion, be considered Fair Market Value for a 3-day event.

–  I’ve had discussions with Rob Hahn at the Illinois Division of Aeronautics and he mentioned you were getting him the information on any temporary structures (rides, stages,etc.) that would need to be reviewed from an aeronautical standpoint to assess any impacts on air navigation standpoint to the remaining part of the airport during the event.

–  It was my understanding that you/the City had just executed the agreement with the event proponent.  A copy of this agreement should be forwarded to Mike Irwin (Illinois Division of Aeronautics) and I.

–  You also mentioned that you have coordinated with the hangar tenants regarding access to the airfield open during the event, with special provisions for those still requiring access during the event.  Included in that effort was rebates/refunds on rent during the event, tiedown parking on the apron in lieu of hangar parking, and wing walking someone out of their hangar.  The last option is potentially the most difficult as on-the-spot availability of wing walkers would most likely be favored by any user wanting to get out of his/her hangar at a moments notice.  Very short notice availability should be granted to the users.  In looking at the event plan drawing you provided, this could be the most challenging issue to you, but it sounds like you’re trying to reach as many of the hangar tenants as possible to lay out their options during the event.

Anyway, it appears that a good faith effort is being made on all the issues I previously brought up.  Based on the progression of these items, I do not foresee any objection on our part for the planned event.  Please do not lose sight of our typical turnaround on airspace review though (45 days), so the sooner you provide the airspace information to Rob Hahn at IDA, the less hectic things will be as the event date approaches.

Also, approval for non-aeronautical events is done on a case-by-case basis.
If/when this year’s event is approved, it shall not be viewed as approval for future events.

As I stated in my previous email, feel free to share this email with those involved in the coordination of the event.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Rich Pur
Chicago Airports District office
(847) 294-7527

Link to Letter from Rich Pur to Tom Cleveland dated May 18, 2010


  1. Cornfest raised no issues, FAA wants to be more invlolved???? Did Mark read the original article???? The FAA knew nothing about this event. They should have been the first ones contacted the day they decided to move it to the airport. Also why did it ever leave down town? I have read articles: to save money, construction…. They promised the store owner they would move it back and never did. Is there an issue with shutting down a MAJOR highway (route 38) for a number of days????
    Many people are not going to want to pay for parking for a “free event”. So how will the lower revenue numbers effect the compensation to the airport??

  2. I am not willing to pay to park on mud, grass, mowed down corn stalks, or any combination thereof. I think I remember seeing some paved areas used for parking last year–charge money for parking there but the non-parking surfaces should be free for parking.

    Lots of other events remain free but they do have suggested ‘free-will donations’ that help cover costs. People feel good when they drop some cash into those buckets. People really liked a particular event–the free-will donations brought in more money than a required admission price that was discussed. I do not feel good about the idea of being required to pay to park on something messy.

  3. @Herb; my original blog, in its entirety including comments, is linked to here.

    1) Cornfest Co. has done nothing wrong yet has been placed in an awful position. Simply getting proper approvals would have avoided this issue altogether. As doing so would have avoided the Monster Truck fiasco since necessary clearance from a state highway and necessary clearance from a major rail line might have prevented that event from even taking place in this uninsured city.

    2) As Mr. Pur wrote this issue has nothing to do with shutting Cornfest down. It has to do with the City of DeKalb’s compliance “to ensure aeronautical use of dedicated airport property, the Grant Assurances also lay out the requirement under Grant Assurance 24. Fee and Rental Structure to be self-sustaining as possible from an economic standpoint.”

    3) “Based on historical attendance figures, this could lead to revenue to the airport ranging between $30k to $50K.” 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker offered to manage Cornfest parking when staff provided council with revenue vs expense analysis. The intent was to replace General Funds used to pay for police, fire and emergency medical services required by the event.

    4) “The Chronicle called me yesterday about a possible story and referred me to your website regarding a supposed issue with the FAA and Cornfest” Am I to believe that the Chronicle alerted Mark Biernacki to the May 18 fact finding letter from the FAA to Tom Cleveland? OK, I guess, but I’m not at all comfortable with what that implies.

    5) I sent an email to Mayor Povlsen regarding concerns over airport litigation issues on May 6 and didn’t even receive an acknowledgement of the email much less a response to the concerns expressed.

  4. The original rationale for the parking charge was not to raise money for the airport, but to compensate the police for the overtime needed to host the event. Is there some sort of arrangement regrading overtime now?

  5. Your original blog and the comments on it created a very negative cast to the whole airport-corn fest matter. Negative enough that I was concerned,.

    However, as Mark B’s note indicates all the city faces is complying with what seem to be fairly straight forward and reasonable conditions from the FAA.

    Have I misunderstood?

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