Summer 2020 was one for the books — but not in a good way. As spring turned to summer, the pandemic’s tightening grip laid claim to most of the community’s annual summertime events. Now, as we near summer 2021, the pandemic lingers and is a factor into the cancellation decisions for many local organizations.
Though the celebrations will likely look different this year due to continued restrictions, many local event organizers say the show must go on and are pushing ahead with festival plans. Today, we offer a look at what events are set to resume this year throughout Kankakee and Iroquois counties and which are holding off another year.
Kankakee Farmers’ Market
GO — Starting today
The market kicks off today and the following list includes vendors that will be available for the spring season of the Market, which will run from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through May 22. Located at 250 S. Schuyler Ave. in downtown Kankakee, the market will continue through Oct. 31 with more vendors to be announced.
Spring vendors include Arlowlines, Bamboo Island Snack Shack, Cindy’s, Cliff’s Natural Pork, Country Creek Home Accents, Cranky Mike’s, Donut Foundry, Dr. Becker’s Bites, Farmlander, Gasca’s Fancy Plants, Goldylox Bagels, Good Morning Bakery, Gracie Pie Apothecary, Great American Enterprise, Hardin’s Family Farm, Heidleberr Farms, HippieGuy.com, iCreate Designs & Strategies, It’s Lit Candles by Tanesha, J’s Freshies, John Bailey Honey, Limitless Designs, Little Angels’ Secret, Llama Bean Coffee Co., Lovealatte: Coffee, Treats and Sweet Eats Prepared by Special People, Miabella’s Inc., Nuts To Go Corp., Philo Collective, Sonoma Farm, Spice Done Right, Spotted Horse Design Co., Stamper Cheese Company, The Fancy Frog, The Neighborhood Kitchen, Tulip Tree Gardens, Turtle Acres and VP Creations.
Cruis’n Nights Classic Car Shows
GO — Starting today
The classic car shows return this spring and summer in the Farmers’ Market parking lots at the corner of East Merchant Street and South Schuyler Avenue. The shows will be from 6 to 8 p.m. May 1, June 12, July 10, August 7, Sept. 4 and Oct. 2. The free events will feature live music from Craig Everett.
31st Annual Rhubarb Festival
GO — May 23
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 23, local vendors of all kinds will take part in the festival hosted by Kankakee County Museum at 801 S. 8th Ave., Kankakee.
“Things are starting to open back up and we’re at 50 percent capacity and that’s a big difference for us,” said Alyssa Blanchette, the museum’s office coordinator. “That gave us that idea that we should get the ball rolling and see if we’re going to be able to continue to have it.”
All updates and information will be posted at kankakeecountymuseum.com and on Facebook (@kankakeecountymuseum). Vendors interested in applying for festival participation can do so by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandwich with a Side of Jam
GO — June 9, July 14, Aug. 11
The downtown Kankakee lunchtime music program at the railroad depot will return from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 9 (music from Lupe Carroll), July 14 (Three’s A Crowd) and Aug. 11 (Lucky Pickers). Food is available for purchase or you can bring their own.
Kankakee Kultivators’ Annual Garden Tour and Faire
GO — June 24
The 2021 Garden Tour will go on but will be held a week later than usual, with the event set for Thursday, June 24. This date should increase chances for the tour’s featured gardens to be in full bloom. The tour will welcome ticket holders into five residential gardens and two bonus gardens. The Vendors’ Faire, on the grounds of the Kankakee Civic Center and Historical Museum, will be open to the public. No tickets will be required. Along with all the other booths, this year’s event will include two food vendors.
Bourbonnais Friendship Festival
GO — June 23-27
This family-friendly festival has been around for 40-plus years. It is slated for June 23-27 at the Bourbonnais Municipal Center.
This year’s festival theme is “Once Upon a Time in Bourbonnais: Take Two.”
“We are proceeding with caution because there are a lot of people who are ready for some normalcy this summer,” festival chairman Bob Steinke said. “Safety plans have been submitted and approved for licensing. We know that we will not be able to include all of the events this year but for the most part, we are anticipating a great event. Being outdoors gives us much more flexibility.”
Besides carnival rides, there will also be local music groups performing each day on the main stage as well as a children’s parade on Friday evening, June 25. The festival concludes with the grand parade on Sunday, June 27.
Les Artisans Arts and Crafts Fair
GO — July 4
The Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society will once again host Les Artisans Arts and Crafts Fair, a summer market, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, July 4, at the Kankakee County Fairgrounds Expo and Outdoor Pavilion, 213 W. 4000S Road, Kankakee.
This event is being planned in close cooperation with the Kankakee County Health Department, and any COVID mitigations required at the time of the event, including mask requirements, will be followed.
For more information about Les Artisans Arts and Crafts Fair, contact coordinator Ellen Stringer at 815-935-5278 or email@example.com.
6th Annual Squeal Showdown BBQ Competition
GO — July 10
The Village of Herscher will host the sixth annual Squeal Showdown BBQ Competition on July 10 on Main Street in downtown Herscher. Setup begins at 5:30 a.m. and the event runs throughout the day with final competition judging being done at 5 p.m. There will be live music happening during the day and lots of BBQ.
The Iroquois County Fair
GO — July 13-18
The Iroquois County Fair will return this year from July 13 to 18 at 1390 E. 2000North Road, Watseka. Fair organizers are currently seeking entries for the talent show that annually takes place on Family Fun Night.
Entries for the Iroquois County Talent Show are available on the fair’s website, iroquoiscofair.com. Auditions are open to anyone 21 years old and younger who live or go to school in Iroquois County. Entries must be postmarked by May 5 to be eligible for participation. Contestants must be available for an audition on May 23.
July Fourth Fireworks/Symphony
GO — July 4
The Fourth of July fireworks show will return at dusk on the evening of July 4. Kankakee Mayor-elect Chris Curtis said the funding for the show will likely be some type of public-private partnership. As in years past, the fireworks show will be in conjunction with the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra at Kankakee Community College.
The orchestra will headline three bands during the festivities. The Kankakee Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra will kick off the festivities at 5 p.m., followed by the Kankakee Community Band from 6 to 7 p.m. and the KVSO at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 4 p.m.
“You’re going to have a great afternoon and evening of music,” said Allan Dennis, KVSO director/conductor.
Merchant Street MusicFest
GO — July 31
The annual two-day event set for the last weekend of July will be cut in half. This year’s event is slated from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 31, in the Harold and Jean Miner Festival Square at the railroad depot area in downtown Kankakee. Instead of three music stages, there will only be two and the number of music performances will be reduced from 34 to 16-18, said event coordinator Allison Beasley.
The event boundaries will be expanded to include all of the 100 and 200 blocks of South Schuyler Avenue.
By including more area, Beasley said that will aid with social distancing. Patrons can walk to the downtown bars and purchase drinks and walk around with beverages.
“Next year we are praying things will be back to normal,” Beasley said. “But we wanted to give people as much normalcy as possible. We hope the extra space this year will give people the room to feel comfortable.”
GO — Aug. 11-15
The Momence-based festival will finally hold its 83rd Glad Fest from Aug. 11-15. The event begins with the Glad Fest queen and princess coronation at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Momence High School football field. The carnival on the Je-Neir Elementary School grounds will be open Aug. 12-14. The event concludes with a flea market and a bags tournament on Aug. 15.
“We felt it was very important to resume the festival this year. This is our second attempt at our 83rd year,” said festival co-president Lorri Simpson. “My concern is if we didn’t do it this year, it may never happen again. It’s hard to get everyone back in the groove.”
Labor Day Celebration
GO — Sept. 4-6
The Village of Herscher is hosting its annual Labor Day celebration from Sept. 4 to 6 at Village Park. On Labor Day, Sept. 6, the grand parade will make its way through town.
GO — Sept. 12
While the date is tentative and the location is not yet decided, the Greek Fest will be back on for 2021. The tentative date is Sunday, Sept. 12, with festivities from noon to 6 p.m. The annual festival will be held on either the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church’s property at 296 N. Washington St. in Kankakee or on the grounds of the BrickStone Brewery Production Facility at 572 Brewery Lane, Bourbonnais.
“We plan on doing this the old-fashioned way,” said Andy Nicholos, festival chairman. “We want people coming together, getting their food and sitting down together to eat and celebrate.”
Trunk or Treat
GO — Mid-October
Even if fall isn’t on your mind now, it’s on the minds of members of the new local Rotary division developed for young professionals. The 609 Rotary Club is planning to host a Trunk or Treat event in downtown Kankakee in mid-October. While details are still in the works, the event is subject to change due to the pandemic. Organizers say to keep an eye on Rotary 609’s Facebook page for updates.
GO — Sept. 4-6
The annual alternative music festival that had been held annually since 2011 at Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See in Manteno on Labor Day weekend is tentatively scheduled for this year after being canceled in 2020.
“We are moving ahead with the planning and trying to be prepared for the event,” said Matt Robinson, one of the Shoe-Fest’s organizers. “We’re just waiting to get the OK from the state.”
Robinson is hopeful the state will give the go-ahead, and the Shoe Fest will be held on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6.
“It’s trending in the right direction,” Robinson said.
Will County Fair
GO — Aug. 25-29
The Will County Fair will return for 2021, with the event scheduled from Aug. 25-29.
Dwight Harvest Days
GO — Sept. 16-19
The 42nd edition of this Livingston County event is slated for Sept. 16-19 in downtown Dwight. One of the event’s favorite attractions is the basset hound waddle that kicks off the parade set for Sept. 19. Dog owners come from all around to take part.
There will also be a craft show, car show and cutest baby contest. A unique feature is the Short Film Festival competition. It is open to all adults and high school students who reside or attend a high school within a 25-mile radius of Dwight.
All genres will be accepted, including drama, comedy, documentary, science fiction, horror, etc. It should, however, be an original, scripted work, and run between 5 and 20 minutes long.
GO — Sept. 23-26
The Oktoberfest will be Sept. 23-26 in downtown Manteno, with some minor adjustments.
“We’re doing it differently this year. We’re excited,” said Sarah Marion, executive director of the Manteno Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to have it more spread out than in the past.
“We’re not going to have the traditional beer tent,” she continued. “It’s going to be all open, and we’re going to be expanding to Walnut Street by the Legion. People will be able to buy drinks from outdoor beer stands.”
Those attending will be required to obtain wristbands.
The event is just one of several that will go on in 2021.
“We’re still having garage sales days, the lighted parade and all the celebratory things that we always do.”
Watseka July 4th Parade
GO — July 3
Sponsored by the Watseka Chamber of Commerce, the parade will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 3. Plans are subject to change due to COVID, though.
Kankakee County Fair
GO — Aug. 4-8
The Kankakee County Fair is back in full swing this year, with events planned for Aug. 4-8.
Major events will include the antique tractor pull, go-kart racing, school bus demolition races, All Star Monster Truck tour, IPRA Championship Rodeo and the IPA Truck and Tractor Pulls.
A full schedule is listed at kankakeefair.org.
The Kankakee County Fair is now under new leadership with a new fair manager.
Jennifer Bauer, who was a member of the fair’s board of directors the past eight years and serves as the board’s 4-H liaison, officially started the role this past week.
She is taking over for Dakota Behrends, who left the position after one year to explore other job opportunities, according to the board.
Bauer said that despite the cancellation of last year’s fair, organizers were confident they would be able to bring it back, assuming COVID-19 guidelines allow at the time the 2021 fair rolls around.
“We’ve had enough events out here where we have a little bit of a savings, so we were a lot better than some county fairs,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of strong sponsors and community support.”