Last year, Illinois turned 200 years old. Join in on the celebrations by checking out the State’s all-year round festivals…

BY ILLINOIS OFFICE OF TOURISM

In the 200 years since it became a state, Illinois has been home to a countless number of people. Everyone and everything that has been built, born, and grown here has a tale. 

People, places, sights, tastes, innovations, art, sport, triumphs – everything that has made it the state it is today, and Illinois’ many festivals are one of the many ways the people of Illinois celebrate those stories.

Just about any weekend of the year, you’ll find an enthusiastic group of locals putting on something to celebrate food, music, art, produce – basically everything good in life. (Not forgetting Chicago Pride, of course!)

It’s impossible to write a comprehensive list, or to even select the very best, so we’ve rounded up a few of the more distinctive festivals, this is a list of the festivals you’re unlikely to find anywhere but Illinois

DCASE Blues Music Festival 2017 in Millennium Park. Crowd cheering during Nellie Tiger Travis performance on Pritzker Pavilion stage

36th Annual Chicago Blues Festival

When? June | Where? Millennium Park

With a diverse line up celebrating the blues’ past, present and future, the Chicago Blues Festival shares the great Chicago-born music tradition with the world while shining a spotlight on the genre’s contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock, hip-hop and more.

Music begins each day at 11am at the Budweiser Crossroads Stage, the Visit Mississippi Juke Joint, the Front Porch and the Park Grill Stage. Count us in.

Ottawa Two Rivers Wine Fest is in charming and historic downtown Ottawa, Illinois

Ottawa Two Rivers Wine Fest

Did someone say three incredible days of wine (and beer?) The ninth annual Ottawa Two Rivers Wine Fest is in charming and historic downtown Ottawa, Illinois.

Enjoy wine from nearly 20 vintners from across Illinois, award-winning craft beer from Tangled Roots Brewery, amazing live jazz all weekend, fresh from the coast lobster, outdoor arts and crafts market and so much more.

A weekend of fantastic fun.

When? June | Where? Ottawa, Illinois

Cobden Peach Festival

When? August | Where? Cobden

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.

What better excuse to celebrate one of the fruit family’s queerest icons? (Call Me By Your Name, anyone?)

Great River Tug Fest

When? August | Where? Port Byron

Technically only half of this festival takes place in Illinois but we have good reason to include it. The Great River 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.

Illinois State Fair

When? August | Where? Springfield, Illinois

The 2019 Illinois State Fair runs from 8 August to 18 August and opens from 7am until midnight.

With everything you’d ever want from a dreamy, colourful all-American Fair – Illinois State Fair has something for the whole family!

Route 66 Mother Road Festival

When? September | Where? Springfield

The 18th Annual Interantional Route 66 Mother Road Festival will see over 1,000 “cool cars” and 80,000 spectators roll into the heart of Springfield’s historic downtown in September for a weekend of, “family fun in the sun” (…and non-stop live music and entertainment to boot).

Celebrate the golden age of the USA’s legendary Route 66 – the cars, the music, the food and the friends, all brought together along Illinois’ Route 66.

Now, where do we get our hands on that “cool car”?

Popeye Parade and Picnic

When? September | Where? Chester

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 world famous, 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.

What better excuse to get the old bicep tattoo out for all to see?

Annual Nouveau Wine Weekend

When? November | Where? Galena

Raise a glass and celebrate the release of Galena Cellars’ Nouveau wine!

But what exactly is Nouveau? Nouveau Wine Weekend – based on the French Beaujolais Nouveau celebration named after the region in which it was founded – was launched in 1985 and is spearheaded by Galena Cellars winemaker Chris Lawlor-White.

Held the third Friday of each November, it showcases the annual release of Le Beaujolais Nouveau, the practice of bottling the first wine of the harvest just a few weeks after fermentation!

Photo by Chris Jacobs

Festival of Lights

When? November & December | Where? East Peoria

All of East Peoria lights up for the holidays where visitors to Illinois can see a huge number of light displays, explore the Enchanted Forest, check out seasonal theatre and browse for souveneirs in Folepi’s Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll.

The whole thing kicks off with a parade in mid-November and is a great add-on to any Christmas-themed trip. Lovely stuff.

Want more on LGBTQI Illinois? Visit enjoyillinois.co.uk/amazingforall

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