Things To Do: Fairs, festivals, old cars and music — and the Burgoo
If you are planning a trip to Starved Rock Country, consider wrapping it around one of the many events that are scheduled throughout the year.
Here are a few to consider (Some dates still not scheduled. Check websites or call for updates.):
CANAL BOAT RIDES — May through October, La Salle
The Illinois & Michigan Canal hasn’t been in business for decades, but you can ride the waterway on The Volunteer, a replica canal boat pulled by two mules, Larry and Moe, for one-hour tours staffed by crew dressed in 1800s garb. Located in downtown La Salle, The Volunteer is a short walk from Lock 16 Visitor Center in downtown La Salle, and includes a cafe and gift shop (815-220-1848, lasallecanalboat.org).
2 RIVERS WINE AND JAZZ FEST — June 7-9, Ottawa
For the third consecutive year, enjoy fine wine, smooth music and fresh lobster. Winemakers from Illinois sell their products with live jazz on the lawn nearby and vendors sell perennials, garden art and botanical crafts (815-434-2737, ottawa2riverswinefest.com).
MORRIS CRUISE NIGHT — May through October, second Sunday of each month
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, car enthusiasts used to “Buzz the Gut” (cruise Liberty Street). The tradition resumes in the summer and early fall, as car, truck and motorcycle owners park on Liberty Street (morriscruisenight.com).
OTTAWA CRUISE NIGHT — June 14, downtown Ottawa
This annual free Friday night event brings hot rods, cool trucks and sharp motorcycles to the Town of 2 Rivers. Vehicles line several blocks of La Salle Street (lasallecountycruisers.com).
FESTIVAL 56 — June 21 to Dec. 19, Princeton
Take Exit 56 off Interstate 80 for this festival that brings professional-level theater to Bureau County’s largest city. Musicals, dramas, comedies and even a one-man show about late computer mogul Steve Jobs will be staged in downtown Princeton. Founded by hometown native Dexter Brigham, Festival 56 is celebrating its 10th season (815-879-5656, festival56.com).
STREATOR FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION — July 3-7
Dubbed “America’s Best,” this old-fashioned holiday celebration includes live music, 5-kilometer run and walk, parade, cardboard boat regatta and a spectacular fireworks show Saturday, July 6 (815-672-2055, streator4thofjuly.com).
OTTAWA FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION, Thursday, July 4
Talent shows in the afternoon in downtown Ottawa followed by Red Stocking “Christmas in July” pizza party fundraiser downtown ($3 for 2 huge slices of pizza and drink and entertainment by Bagshot Row). At nightfall Ottawa’s 4th of July fireworks display.
ILLINOIS MOTORCYCLE FREEDOM RUN — June 16, Morris to Marseilles
Motorcyclists gather at Morris in the morning, then ride to Marseilles for ceremonies at the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial along the Illinois River. The wall honors servicemen and women who have died from terrorist attacks and in the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. Their names are etched on a series of 11 upright black granite slabs. Midday ceremonies are followed by Freedom Fest with food, drinks, live music and vendor booths (630-662-7509, ilmotorcyclefreedomrun.org).
SKYDIVE CHICAGO SUMMERFEST — July 27-Aug. 4, Ottawa
Now in its 12th year, Summerfest features all kinds of skydiving-related events with food, vendor booths, live entertainment and fireworks (815-433-0000, skydivechicago.com).
RIVERFEST — July 30-Aug. 4, Ottawa
Plenty of live music in front of a food festival on Ottawa’s riverfront along with a carnival, parade, massive book sale in Washington Square, car show, athletics competition and live theater (815-433-0161, ottawariverfest.org).
FARMFEST 450 — Aug. 16-18, Kinsman
This weekend music festival on a farm miles from any town includes an array of rock ‘n’ roll acts, most from the Midwest and some with national reputations. Festgoers camp overnight and listen to music that carries over into the early-morning hours (farmfest450.com).
MENDOTA SWEET CORN FESTIVAL — AUG. 8-11
Live entertainment, a flea market and craft show, children’s activities and a carnival are just facets of the fun that can be had this year at the 66th annual fest. The big event will be Sunday, Aug. 11, when the grand parade will be staged downtown. And when that’s done, festgoers can consume free buttered sweet corn on the cob (815-539-6507, sweetcornfestival.com).
BUREAU COUNTY FAIR — Aug. 21 to 25, Princeton
Traditional county fairs still take place, and this is one of the oldest in Illinois. See home and agricultural exhibits, 4-H competition, a carnival and plenty of fair food. A country music contest is part of the fun, and this year’s headliner is Justin Moore (815-875-2905, bureaucountyfair.com).
DREAM MACHINES CRUISE NIGHT — Aug. 31, Streator
Every Labor Day Saturday, cool cars are hot items in Streator. Up to 700 vehicles line and cruise downtown streets. Vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles are judged the next day in a show sponsored by the Dream Machines Car Club (815-673-7905, streator,org).
SANDWICH FAIR — Sept. 4-8
This fair, celebrating its 126th year, has been voted the No. 1 fair in Illinois, with agricultural and home exhibits, food vendors and theatrical shows contained in the tree-lined fairgrounds. Head to the track for horse and harness racing, demolition derby, monster truck shows, and live country music (815-786-2159. sandwichfair.com).
JAZZ’N THE STREET FESTIVAL — SEPT. 7, La Salle
First Street in downtown La Salle will come alive with sophisticated sounds. Jazz fans also can enjoy wine, beer, and food. A dusk fireworks display will jazz up the night’s end (815-343-0265, lbassoc.ipage.com/contact-us.html).
GRUNDY COUNTY SWEET CORN FESTIVAL — SEPT. 25-29, Morris
Every September in downtown Morris it gets pretty corny. But that’s how they like it. Should you visit, feel free to see art and agriculture exhibits, eat a variety of food, listen to live music, engage in children’s activities and take train rides. A 5-kilometer walk and run, carnival, craft show, flea market, Saturday night fireworks and antique tractor and farm machinery show and Sunday parade. also will be featured (815-942-2676, cornfestival.org).
SHADOWS OF THE BLUE AND GRAY — OCT. 12-13, Princeton
This Civil War re-enactment held at City County Park in Princeton includes battle re-enactments, work by artisan crafters, period songs, food, dancing, storytelling and a visit by President and Mrs. Lincoln. A Civil War fashion show, news conference by Civil War generals and a barn dance also will be part of the fun (815-760-0487 or 815-878-9861, www.shadowsoftheblueandgray.com).
BURGOO FESTIVAL — Oct. 13, Utica
Come early as thousands of people descend on Utica each Columbus Day Sunday. Besides craft and flea market vendors, the big draw is the Burgoo, a secret recipe of meats, vegetables and spices cooked overnight in giant kettles and served the following day to hungry festgoers. Get your stew early; it usually sells out (815-667-4111, www.utica-il.com).
— Mike Murphy