Oswego’s PrairieFest moving to Labor Day weekend for 2021

The Oswegoland Park District will push its PrairieFest community celebration back this year, from Father’s Day weekend in June to Labor Day weekend in September.

A video posted to the Oswego event’s Facebook page Jan. 28 confirmed the shift and provided some highlights of the lineup expected this year.

With a theme of “Happy Days Are Here Again,” this year’s PrairieFest will run Sept. 3 to 6. The change is for this year only, said Kristi Vest, superintendent of events and cultural arts.

PrairieFest was canceled in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move to later in the year allows the park district and community to look toward a time when things can get back to “normal,” Vest said.

“We didn’t have much choice in our date. That was kind of unfortunate,” Vest said. The park district spoke with investors and explained that they wanted to wait until the park district could be “assured” that the time and resources necessary would go toward a festival that would “have a good chance at happening.”

“That put us at fall,” she said.

Bigger festivals in Illinois and across the country are moving toward fall 2021, Vest said.

“So that seemed safe to us, too,” she said. “The minute we knew fall, we went to our main partners and said, ‘What are we looking at for availability?’”

As some vendors had flexible schedules and others did not, Vest said the Labor Day weekend was chosen.

“This is not our preferred date, which is why we will only be going with it for one year, but this is the date when we could bring in the carnival, which I think is a really big part of the festival,” Vest said. “I think that the kiddos, especially, are going to be really excited to be able to get back to Ferris wheels and Dragon Wagons and things like that.”

The entertainment lineup is taking shape, as well, Vest said.

While some entertainers scheduled for the 2020 festival have agreed to appear in 2021, including trampoline stunt group Flip Out and the Light Your Night Laser Show, the park district is in negotiations with other acts.

Vest said that a lineup of entertainers is expected to be announced in April, adding that the park district is looking to highlight community acts, especially those hit hard by the pandemic.

“The community has a real need to look back on the people that need some help,” she said, pointing out regional artists.

“There’s a lot of people that locally were making their living entertaining, that were really hurt by the last year,” Vest said. “We’re hoping we can feature them in our PrairieFest lineup to really celebrate them and that they made it through all this.”

Community members looking to suggest a regional band can contact the park district through the official PrairieFest website.

Safety remains a top priority in 2021, Vest said.

“There are a lot of factors that are out there. There’s people that are very concerned about their health, the health of their community, and there’s people that aren’t ready to gather,” she said. “We need a little time to put COVID behind us. We feel confident that fall will be that time, based on what we’re hearing from a lot of different experts.”