Ellwood Summer Festival a DeKalb tradition for nearly 40 years

Artists, musicians, and kids Celebrate at Ellwood Summer Festival

DeKALB – It was a nice day in the shade at the Ellwood Summer Festival on Sunday. At least, that’s according to local artist Lisa Riedel, who set up her canvas in the shade of some bushes near the tower on the west side of the Ellwood property.

“Did you know that’s a water tower?” she said. “I always thought it was a silo.”

The tower was the subject of her painting. Riedl is a new member of the Kishwaukee Valley Artists League, and a new member of the community as well, but she said she already had some idea of what makes it special.

“This group helps this group helps this group,” she said. “We’ve got our art people here today, but we’ve also got Rotary people helping out. I think that’s what’s good about this community.”

KVAL has been a part of the Ellwood Summer Festival for three years. Members took breaks from their own art pieces to work the kid’s table, helping young people try out art projects.

New this year was the inclusion of a mini-golf course out next to the Little House, which itself was commemorated for 125 years of being owned by Ellwood House. To celebrate, visitors wrote notes on paper circles attached to garden stakes that they then drove into the ground around the house, creating a sort of garden of appreciation. Many of these were written in children’s handwriting.

Kids bounced merrily from activity to activity, coloring superhero masks at the KVAL station, exploring the Tiny House or building their own pollinator box inside the visitor center, all the while the scent of Boy Scout Troop 33 hot dogs and the pluck of berimbau, a single-stringed instrument, filled the air.

“It’s like holding a pencil,” instructor Ethan Martin said to a small girl, letting her handle the Brazilian instrument.

Berimbau playing was featured at last year’s Ellwood Summer Festival. Martin has been working with the instrument since 2016, having played drums before it.

“We’re all percussionists; that’s where we started. It’s a natural progression,” he said with a smile.

The Ellwood Summer Festival has been running for more than 40 years, in some form or another. Brian Reis, the museum’s director, said that there’s almost always been a big summer event, though the activities themselves change year to year. Reis estimated that by the day’s end, between 300 and 500 people will have visited.