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It’s summertime, have some festival fun

by Steve Tarter |
hand holding multi-color balloons

Summer is festival time in Illinois. That’s the time for towns across the central swath of the state to pull together and pack in the locals and tourists alike.

Since towns don’t have a monopoly on crops grown on the premises, you’re likely to find a little duplication. If you’re a strawberry fan, there’s the Elmwood Strawberry Festival, always held on the first Saturday in June. But strawberries are also the theme for festivals in Arthur, Kankakee, Long Grove and Tiskilwa.

This is the corn belt, after all, so while most of the maize you see from the roadside isn’t for human consumption, there are sweet corn festivals aplenty in these parts, including in Minier and Normal.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty to savor right here in Peoria. Some 30 events, including a trio of three-day festivals and a pair of two-day festivals, will take place on the banks of the Illinois River in Downtown Peoria from late May through the end of September, said Nick Conrad, supervisor of riverfront events for the Peoria Park District.

The biggest crowd can be expected for the Carle Health Red, White and Boom fireworks display on July 4 but the Peoria Irish Fest and Oktoberfest will each draw from 5,000 to 8,000 people over the course of their three-day runs, said Conrad.

“The longest-running festival on the Peoria riverfront is the Peoria Blues and Heritage Festival, which dates back to the early 1990s,” he said.

There’s also a new three-day festival this year — Park-A-Palooza — to be held June 8-10 complete with concert, bounce house (the world’s biggest) and drone light show, said Conrad.

Here is a list of summertime and early autumn festivals in central Illinois:

WASHINGTON GOOD NEIGHBOR DAYS

MAY 31-JUNE 4

1800 Washington Road (John Bearce lot)

Carnival rides, music events, 5K race, nightly fireworks, etc.

 

ELMWOOD STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

JUNE 3, 2023

Central Park, Main and Magnolia, Elmwood

Crafters, vendors, local entertainers, a 5K color run/walk and good food including lots of strawberry desserts.

facebook.com/elmwoodstrawberryfest

 

CANTON ART ON MAIN FINE ART FESTIVAL

JUNE 3-4, 2023

Jones Park, Canton

View and purchase original art from some of the Midwest’s best artists, plus food, local music and wine.

cantonillinois.org/main-street/main-street-events/art-on-main

 

BLOOMINGTON GOLD

JUNE 2-3, 2023

Redbird Arena and Horton Field House, Normal

Corvette, Camaro and other car enthusiasts are invited to two days of automotive excitement including a road tour, judging, vendors, dealer displays and a gala reception.

bloomingtongold.com

 

TREMONT TURKEY FESTIVAL

JUNE 9-11, 2023

Community Park (on Route 9)

Turkey is a big part of this festival, which traces its roots back 57 years. In addition, enjoy entertainment, family activities, the Miss Tremont Pageant, carnival rides, tractor pulls, a parade and more.

turkeyfestival.com

 

SOMMERFEST

JUNE 10, 2023

Hickory Grove Park, Dunlap

peoriagermans.net

 

CHILLICOTHE DAYS CARNIVAL

JUNE 14-17, 2023

City Park, Downtown Chillicothe

Kick off summer with carnival rides, games, food, live music and entertainment, a talent show, Mr. Chillicothe contest and more.

facebook.com/chillicothechamber

 

JUNETEENTH FEST

JUNE 17, 2023

Carver Center, John H. Gwynn Jr. Park

Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S., was first recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 and the Juneteenth Fest marks the occasion.

 

OLD SETTLER’S DAYS MACOMB HERITAGE DAYS

JUNE 21-24, 2023

Metamora Village Square

A reunion, a family tradition, a time to gather and enjoy being part of a community. Old Settler’s Days is food, vendors, carnival rides and live music every night near the historic Metamora Courthouse.

villageofmetamora.com

 

MACOMB HERITAGE DAYS

JUNE 22-25

Macomb Municipal Airport

Bands, food and a carnival plus a Sunday pancake breakfast.

macombheritagedays.com

 

ILLINOIS SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL

JUNE, JULY, AUGUST 2023

Multiple venues, Bloomington

Celebrate the Bard with performances, educational programs and community events throughout the summer. This year’s works include “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Book of Will” by Lauren Gunderson and “The Tempest.”

Illinoisshakes.com

 

VOLKSFEST

JULY 1, 2023

Hickory Grove Park, Dunlap

peoriagermans.net

 

GLEN OAK PARK FIREWORKS

JULY 3, 2023

Glen Oak Park, Peoria

peoriaparks.org

 

CARLE HEALTH RED, WHITE AND BOOM!

JULY 4, 2023

Peoria and East Peoria riverfronts

The area’s largest annual event attracts up to 200,000 to the Peoria and East Peoria riverfronts for a huge fireworks display and all-day celebration.

redwhiteandboom.us

 

MACK-A-FEST

JULY 13-15, 2023

Veteran’s Park and other Mackinaw locations

A hometown festival with something for everyone, including a parade, carnival rides, tractor pull, ribeye sandwich dinner, 5K run/walk, Little Miss and Mr. Mack-A-Fest.

facebook.com/mackafest

 

RIVER CITY PRIDE FESTIVAL

JULY 15, 2023

Downtown Peoria

Sponsored by Peoria Proud, the event is open to all and includes music, food, vendors and fun.

facebook.com/RCPridePeoria

 

HEART OF ILLINOIS FAIR

JULY 18-22, 2023

Expo Gardens, Peoria

The Heart of Illinois Fair is an annual fair featuring livestock competitions, rides, concessions, motor contests and concerts. A Peoria tradition since 1949.

 

FIESTA EN EL RIO

JULY 28, 2023

Peoria Riverfront

An unforgettable night of celebrating Hispanic heritage through music, dance, food and fun.

facebook.com/events/1103102093568426

 

KICKAPOO CREEK FESTIVAL

AUGUST 11-13, 2023

Wildlife Prairie Park, Hanna City

Free workshops, fishing, food, free camping, a bonfire and activities promoting conservation of the Kickapoo Creek watershed.

friendsofrockyglen.org/kickapoo-creek-festival

 

MINIER CORN DAZE

JULY 29-30, 2023

School Park, Minier

All the sweet corn you can eat, plus a softball tourney, Fire Department water fight, vendors, lawn tractor pull, car show, live music, entertainers, vendors and events for the whole family.

 

RIVER CITY SOULFEST

AUGUST 4-6

Peoria Riverfront

The Peoria Park District presents the original celebration of soul and R&B music on the Peoria riverfront.

peoriaparks.org/ river-city-soul-fest

 

BRATFEST

AUGUST 5, 2023

Hickory Grove Park, Dunlap

peoriagermans.net

 

OZ FESTIVAL ILLINOIS

AUGUST 12, 2023

Butler Haynes Park, Mapleton

Follow the yellow brick road to Mapleton, where you will find the most fun this side of the rainbow.

 

INDIA FEST

AUGUST 13, 2023

Peoria Riverfront

Featuring live music, authentic Indian cuisine, and traditional Indian dancing.

explorepeoria.com/events/india-fest

 

PEORIA IRISH FEST

AUGUST 25–27, 2023

Peoria Riverfront

Sponsored by St. Patrick’s Society of Peoria, enjoy Celtic fun for everyone with Irish music, dance, culture, food, beer, whiskey tasting, highland games and kids’ activities.

peoriairishfest.com

 

BALLOONS OVER 66 FESTIVAL

AUGUST 25-27, 2023

Lincoln

Hot air balloons are launched at various locations throughout Lincoln. Saturday concludes with a Balloon Glow as tethered balloons light up the sky.

illinoisroute66.org/event/lincoln-illinois-balloons-over-66-weekend-2023

 

SWEET CORN CIRCUS

AUGUST 26-27, 2023

Uptown Normal

Formerly the Sweet Corn Blues Festival, the updated event will feature lots of sweet corn, vendors, crafters and performances by ISU’s Gamma Phi Circus acrobatic troupe.

uptownnormal.com/events

 

Peoria Heights Sesquicentennial Celebration

SEPTEMBER 7-9, 2023

Downtown Peoria Heights, Tower Park

The Village of Peoria Heights celebrates its 125th birthday with its annual Taste of the Heights, a classic car show, artisan market, kids’ play area and live music, among other festivities

 

HOMESTEAD FESTIVAL

SEPTEMBER 7-10, 2023.

Princeton

This festival honors the Rev. Owen Lovejoy and his contributions to the nation’s history. The “homestead” is his former residence, which is on the National Register. The event features a parade, carnival rides, food, merchants and live entertainment.

homesteadfestival.com

 

PEKIN MARIGOLD FESTIVAL

SEPTEMBER 7-10, 2023

Mineral Springs Park, Pekin

In the Marigold Capital of the World, enjoy food, music, a medallion hunt, Miss Marigold Pageant, parade and plenty of fun for the whole family.

pekinchamber.com/pekin-marigold-festival

 

MORTON PUMPKIN FESTIVAL

SEPTEMBER 13-16, 2023

Downtown Morton and Jefferson School grounds

Join in the celebration of all things pumpkin with food, entertainment, carnival rides, parade, craft sale, 5K run/walk and much more.

mortonpumpkinfestival.org

 

PEORIA OKTOBERFEST

SEPTEMBER 15-17, 2023

Peoria Riverfront

A Peoria take on the traditional Munich celebration features plenty of German food, beer, music, culture and customs.

oktoberfestpeoria.com

 

PEORIA ART GUILD FINE ART FAIR

SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2023

Peoria Riverfront

One of the oldest art fairs in the country, with a showcase of quality art from national and regional artists, music, food and hands-on activities for kids and adults.

peoriaartguild.org

 

SPOON RIVER VALLEY SCENIC DRIVE

OCTOBER 7-8, OCTOBER 14-15, 2023

Multiple communities in Fulton and Peoria counties

This far-flung celebration features two weekends of art, crafts, collectibles, antiques, food, entertainment, re-enactments and activities across dozens of communities.

spoonriverdrive.org

Steve Tarter

Steve Tarter

is a Peoria Magazine contributor who was born in England, raised in Boston, moved to Peoria to attend Bradley University and decided to stay. He has spent a career in journalism and public relations

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