Although Oswego’s PrairieFest has grown to become Kendall County’s largest festival, the four-day event is staying true to its roots as a community celebration.
“What separates us from other festivals is that we really do have an element of the community involved in every aspect of what we do,” said Kristie Vest, superintendent of events and cultural arts for the Oswegoland Park District, which organizes the annual festival.
Admission to PrairieFest is free. The longstanding festival is in its 34th year.
About 75,000 people attend the festival, which will once again be held in PrairieFest Park, just south of Oswego High School. As one example of how the festival continues to be community oriented, a community art project will once again be part of the festivities.
“What separates us from other festivals is that we really do have an element of the community involved in every aspect of what we do.”— Kristie Vest, Oswegoland Park District superintendent of events and cultural arts
The project is put together by the Oswego-based Fox River Academy of Music and Art.
“They design barn quilts, three barn quilts every PrairieFest,” Vest said. “The community paints them together and then we hang them up throughout the community. Right now, you can see them at the barns at Prairie Point Center and along Fox Bend Golf Course. And this year, we’ll be painting three barn quilts that will go in Hudson Crossing Park.”
The festival’s Expo Village will feature area businesses and organizations along with artisans.
“If you didn’t know about some of our businesses in our area, this is a great way to learn about them,” Vest said.
Music is a big part of PrairieFest. The festival will kick off on June 15 with the Prairie Winds Community Band Concert, which is comprised of current and former music students at Oswego schools.
“It’s a really neat tradition and they play really well,” Vest said. “That’s a nice way for us to start out the festival.”
For the third year, local bands will perform as part of BandSlam.
“We give stage time to the emerging young musicians in the area,” Vest said.
The bands will perform from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. on June 15 as part of BandSlam. As in past years, PrairieFest will feature a strong music lineup.
National acts are featured on two of the nights of the festival. Admission is free.
Country powerhouse Sara Evans will perform on June 16 and the Pop2K tour on June 17 will feature NSYNC’s Chris Kilpatrick, Ryan Cabrera, LFO and O-Town.
“We always look for both of our national nights to be something that will be enjoyed by as many people as possible and that’s going to be somebody’s favorite,” Vest said. “Sarah Evans was somebody we really wanted to bring in and it just so happened that we worked with her schedule. And for the Pop 2K performance, we wanted to appeal to younger people. We went out to hear them play in Schaumburg last year and they had a great fun crowd. We want to make sure it’s a great time for everyone and if you weren’t a fan of a certain band, you become one. And I think that’s going to be a good show for PrairieFest on June 17.”
Beatles tribute band American English will perform on the last day of the festival, June 18, which also is Father’s Day.
“That’s been a band that’s played at PrairieFest for the past five years on Father’s Day,” Vest said. “They are amazing and they are so much fun to see. And we just haven’t had enough of them yet.”
A car show will also be held at 1 p.m. on Father’s Day at Oswego High School. Another highlight of the day is the annual PrairieFest parade, which will step off at 1 p.m.
The parade will start on Jefferson Street and will go through the downtown, ending on Tyler Street. The theme of this year’s parade is “Summer Starts Here,” which celebrates a a 34-year tradition of PrairieFest kicking off the season of sunshine.
A fun family activity that also takes place that day is the PrairieFest 5K and One Mile Prairie Dog Jog.
“What’s nice about the 5K is it runs through the neighborhoods,” Vest said. “It’s a nice, easy 5K and so a lot of families participate together. The neighbors along the path cheer everybody on. It’s a race that’s enjoyable and it has a real community feel to it.”
Volunteers play a big part in putting on PrairieFest.
“It’s impossible for us to host PrairieFest without the volunteers,” Vest said. “We have over 250 volunteers that join us for a shift or two throughout the weekend.”
More volunteers are needed for this year’s festival. To find out how to volunteer, go to prairiefest.com/volunteer.
To find out more about PrairieFest, go to its website, prairiefest.com.