News - Joliet and Will County

Great Joliet Prison Break-In on Saturday promises to be bigger, better

Jonathan and Danielle Meyer check out a portrait of Elwood Blues during last year's Prison Break-In at the Old Joliet Prison.

The second Great Joliet Prison Break-In is Saturday, and it is expected to reflect a growing interest in the city’s reclamation of the old Joliet Correctional Center.

At least 5,000 people are expected, which would exceed the turnout last year when the prison on Collins Street was opened to the public for the first time.

The event, which runs 4 to 11 p.m., is the primary fundraiser for the restoration efforts at what now is being called the Old Joliet Prison. It features tours of prison buildings, live music, an art exhibit, food trucks and the unique opportunity to attend a festival inside the walls of the prison.

“This place really interests a lot of people,” said Clay Johnson, chairman of the committee organizing the Great Joliet Prison Break-In.

Organizers were enthusiastic a year ago when 3,500 people came to the Break-In. This year, Johnson said, “Our goal is 5,000, and I’m sure we’ll reach that attendance.”

Many who did not go to the first Break-In wish that they had, he said.

“Last year, the word got out that if you didn’t go you really missed something,” Johnson said.

The event’s offerings have been expanded.

“All the things that made it great last year we’re doing more of – more food and drink opportunities, more tours, more signage, more artwork,” said Greg Peerbolte, director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which manages activities at the prison.

More food vendors are being brought in to shorten the lines that developed at last year’s Break-In.

A third building – the prison cafeteria – has been added to the tour list, which also includes the East Cell Block and North Segregation building that festivalgoers were able to tour a year ago.

Old Joliet Prison Burnt District Artists, a group that creates art from debris and materials found at the prison, will display their original works and have added more that will be exhibited.

Bands and performers include The Ides of March, Great Moments in Vinyl, The Nikki Hill Band and Hot Mess.

Tickets are $40.

Like last year, organizers expect many people will wait until the day of the event to buy tickets at the door, although they have been available for weeks at various locations and on the Old Joliet Prison website.

Proceeds from the event will be essential in determining what can be added to the restoration to-do list in the coming year.

The Great Joliet Prison Break-In is “our signature fundraiser,” Peerbolte said. “This is the night we come together to raise money for the prison.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News