Illinois loves a good festival. Just about any weekend of the year, you’ll find an enthusiastic group of locals putting on something to celebrate food, music, art, produce and just about everything else good in life.
It’s impossible to write a comprehensive list, or to even select the very best. So we’ve found a few of the more distinctive festivals—the ones you’re unlikely to find anywhere but Illinois.
This week-long festival celebrates Herrin’s rich Italian heritage. There’s arts and crafts, a carnival, parades, Bocce tournaments and—of course—amazing Italian food and drink.
Lilacia Park in Lombard is an 8.5 acre horticultural showcase featuring 700 lilacs and 25,000 tulips. Lilac Time is a yearly springtime festival where all sorts of special events take place to honor and showcase the beautiful blooms
Route 66 is a big deal here in Illinois—after all, it’s where the Mother Road starts. This celebration of all things Route 66 features a classic car cruise, a cycle ride and what might be your best chance to run a 10k race down Route 66 itself.
June, Long Grove
It’s three full days of all things strawberry. Strawberry barbeque, strawberry pie-eating contests, deep-fried strawberries, strawberry fudge, ice cream, popcorn, shakes. We guarantee you this is the largest number of strawberries and strawberry-related things you’ll ever see and experience.
Where better to hold a Superman festival than the town that shares its name with Superman’s hometown? This annual event in Metropolis, run for more than 40 years, attracts Superman fans from all over the world to show off their costumes and meet celebrities from comics, movies and television.
If you have any fondness for peaches, then Cobden is the place to be every August. The annual Peach Festival celebrates the peach harvest with fresh peaches, peach cobbler, peach pie—and really just about everything else peach-related.
August, Port Byron
Technically only half of this festival takes place in Illinois—but we have good reason to include it. Tug Fest is a giant tug-of-war between Illinois and Iowa—right across the Mississippi River. Each year 11 valiant teams battle 11 teams across the river as part of the three-day festival, which also includes arm wrestling competitions and cornhole tournaments. The really important part? Illinois has won 21 times to Iowa’s 11.
Popeye creator Elzie Crisler Segar was born in Chester. So, naturally, the town celebrates their famous son every year with a three-day celebration of the famed spinach-loving sailor. There’s a Popeye museum, trivia contests, food, music, dancing, pet show, fireworks display and, of course, the Saturday morning Popeye Parade.
Back in 1956, Wally Thurow organized an event for Sycamore locals to show off their creativity by decorating pumpkins, to be displayed in his front yard. It soon became an annual event—the town’s largest. Every year the Sycamore Courthouse lawn is now filled with thousands of decorated pumpkins, along with craft shows, a pie-eating contest and a grand parade.
Yep, you read that right. This festival – known as “TTF” to the locals – has been running for 36 years and draws thousands on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Come to hear live music, and of course, sample deep fried turkey testicles.
November and December, East Peoria
All of East Peoria lights up for the holidays. See a huge number of light displays, explore the Enchanted Forest, check out seasonal theatre, browse for gifts in Folepi’s Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll. The whole thing kicks off with a parade in mid-November.