Merchant Street Music Festival

Fans crowd the stage at the 2019 Merchant Street MusicFest in Kankakee. After a year off due to the pandemic, the event is set to return to normal in late July.

KANKAKEE — Drumroll, please.

The popular Merchant Street MusicFest in Kankakee is back to being a two-day event following a 2020 COVID-19-induced shutdown.

The organizational committee along with Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis came to the determination late last week. The event is set for 5 to 11 p.m. July 30 and 2 to 11 p.m. July 31 at the Harold and Jean Miner Festival Square in downtown Kankakee.

Canceled in 2020 along with basically every other summertime event due to the pandemic, the event had been initially reinstated for 2021 as only a Saturday event. However, Curtis noted that if community gathering restrictions were to ease even more, there would be consideration to bring back the music festival in its entirety.

That is what has happened.

The only casualty to the 2021 event is the loss of the KidZone area, which featured a bounce house as well as numerous children activities. The hope is the KidZone will return in 2022.

When initially brought back as a one-day event, the musical acts were going to be limited to two stages and perhaps 20 performers. The event now will feature all three stages — Merchant Street, Hill and Platform Blues — with 30-35 musical acts set to perform.

“It’s happening,” a happy Mayor Curtis said. “We’re going back to the full program as usual.”

Tickets at the gate will be $10 per person. A two-day ticket can be purchased for $15. Pre-event tickets can be purchased for $8 at or at the Kankakee Public Library.

The beer tent will also return as will food vendors.

Curtis noted the event will be run as in years past, meaning the area will be fenced off. The initial plan to close off the 100 and 200 blocks of South Schuyler Avenue has been dropped.

“We are trying to accomplish in 60 days what it normally took us about six months to do,” the mayor said of previous years’ planning.

He and organizers had been crossing their fingers that eased COVID-19 restrictions would allow the music festival to go on and their patience was rewarded.

“This event is part of us getting back to normal,” Curtis said. “I know there are plenty of music acts anxious to get back here.”

Peggy Mayer, one of the event’s key organizers, said this event is huge for not just Kankakee, but all of Kankakee County.

“Everyone is very excited to bring it back to what it has normally been. We didn’t want people to be disappointed. That’s why we waited so long for this final decision,” she said.

Mayer said the full lineup of musical acts will be released in the next week.

“We believe the community is very excited to have this back,” she said.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at