Hundreds of pickle lovers attend Pickle Paradise in St. Charles

Charlie Benson of St. Charles participates in the Dill Dash fun run with his own little “gherkins”, daughter Genevieve, 3 and Marty, 5 during Inaugural Pickle Paradise event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles on Friday, June 21, 2024.

Hundreds of pickle enthusiasts of all ages gathered for the first Pickle Paradise festival June 21 in Pottawatomie Park in downtown St. Charles.

Guests enjoyed pickle-flavored items that included nuts, hot sauce, chips, ranch dressing, popcorn, mustard, pretzels, soda, lemonade and even beer. Local vendors served pickles of all kinds, including fried pickles, Kool-Aid pickles, pickle pasta, pickle salad and more.

Some historical pickle promotional items were on display at the Inaugural Pickle Paradise event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles on Friday, June 21, 2024.

The free event began with a pickleball tournament in the Pottawatomie Community Center. St. Charles residents Bernee and Lane Gredzileski took home the first-place trophy.

Pickleball tournament winners Lane and Bernee Gredzileski pose with their trophies at the Pickle Paradise event on June 21, 2024, in the Pottawatomie Community Center in St. Charles.

More than 50 people participated in the Dill Dash, a 1-mile fun run around the park. Many were dressed in pickle-themed outfits and costumes. Runners were able to grab pickle samples along the route.

St. Charles resident Logan Ramos, 8, was the first racer to cross the finish line. Ramos, a student at Lincoln Elementary School, said he did not expect to win the race, but his hard work paid off as he was able to take first place by a wide margin.

Dill Dash runners get doused with colorful powder along the race route during the Inaugural Pickle Paradise event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles on Friday, June 21, 2024.

Other family-friendly entertainment took place throughout the evening, including Hula-Hoop and limbo contests, carnival games, music and a DJ.

The Pickle Patch was open for guests to sample a variety of pickles and pickle-flavored products from local vendors. Jimmy John’s, Tap House Grill and Angelo Caputo’s had booths and trucks on-site, serving food in the park.

A beer garden was open in the park for guests 21 and older. Pollyanna Brewing Company served pickle cocktails and Riverlands Brewing Company served Pickle Paradise, a pickle-flavored beer it created for the event.

Taryn Biemolt has her photo taken as a giant pickle by Brooke Freeman during Inaugural Pickle Paradise event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles on Friday, June 21, 2024.

Riverlands Brewing Company owner Andy Marck said Pickle Paradise was brewed at the request of the St. Charles Park District and was a big hit at the event. The brewery’s booth had a long line of customers throughout the event and sold out the pickle-flavored beer. Pickle Paradise is available on tap at Tap House Grill in St. Charles.

The event was hosted by the St. Charles Park District in honor of the little-known fact that the city has been recognized as the Pickle Capital of the World since the 1970s, when Pickle Packers International was headquartered in St. Charles.

The St. Charles History Museum had a booth at the festival to educate guests on the city’s rich pickling history. According to museum records, the moniker was given to the city unofficially by Bill “The Dill” Moore, president of Pickle Packers International, in the 1960s and the Illinois General Assembly made the title official in 1978.

The St. Charles Park District will host the first Pickle Paradise event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on June 21, 2024, in Pottawatomie Park.

Although Pickle Packers International now operates out of Washington, D.C., St. Charles has retained the title of Pickle Capital of the World for more than 40 years.

Taylor Krawczyk, St. Charles Park District assistant superintendent of recreation, organized the event and said she was thrilled with the amount of people in attendance. During the event, she reported more than 500 tickets had been sold among the attractions.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the park district’s financial aid program to help provide recreational experiences for all. Krawczyk said she hopes the event will become an annual tradition and was happy to see the support from so many community members who likely didn’t know about the city’s history in the pickle industry.

“We wanted to educate and embrace the history of the city,” Krawczyk said. “I’m just happy to have so many community members out enjoying a beautiful evening.”