Festival season could have hit a major bump in the road with construction around downtown Glen Ellyn, but a carnival and new concert series will help fill out the social calendar.
The Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce’s five days of carnival rides downtown started Wednesday and runs through Sunday. It’s a long-standing celebration of the end of the school year and unofficial start of summer.
In a break with tradition, the Chamber is replacing the Taste of Glen Ellyn with a free monthly concert series to help steer walking traffic to shops and restaurants during a summer of street closures and construction headaches outside the storefronts.
“We’re trying to change things for the positive and make do with what we have, and I think it’s going to be a success, and I think some people will like this a lot more than the Taste,” Chamber Executive Director Dawn Smith said.
The village has embarked on a major streetscape and infrastructure overhaul south of the railroad tracks. One apartment building is still under construction and another developer soon will begin priming the McChesney & Miller grocery store site for a five-story residential complex.
With the building spree downtown, Chamber organizers couldn’t accommodate a large-scale event such as the Taste. The village’s annual eat-a-thon was first held in 1977, three years before the launch of the Taste of Chicago in the Loop. The food festival coincided with the carnival for a weekend of entertainment last year.
“During streetscape, I can’t close any streets down because there’s so many streets already closed,” Smith said. “And so I think I’ll just see if people like it this way or if they want to have it all one big weekend again.”
The Chamber managed to make room for the Glen Ellyn Carnival this week at the Glenwood Avenue and Crescent Boulevard parking lot west of Main Street. Carnival hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
With last year’s carnival proceeds, the Chamber awarded $10,000 in scholarships to students at Glenbard West and South high schools. Another $10,000 in community grants went to local charitable groups. A portion of proceeds from this week’s fair again will support scholarships and nonprofit grants.
“The carnival is one tradition in the central business district,” Smith said. “We actually were looking at putting it off-site, but it just didn’t work out and so there was kind of a demand to keep it in the downtown.”
As a Taste alternative, the concert series will cater to the palate and a range of musical tastes on the first Thursday night of each month from June through September.
American English, a Beatles tribute band, will headline opening night June 2. Libido Funk Circus will perform July 7. Gone Country will take the stage Aug. 4. Rock band 7th Heaven will close out the series Sept. 1.
The Chamber chose the Thursday concert dates for several reasons.
If families are planning a weekend getaway, they still can attend concerts during the week.
And downtown shops stay open later on Thursday nights.
The Chamber is encouraging businesses to offer outside shopping.
“What we’re really trying to accomplish is to tell people that Glen Ellyn is still open even though we have lots of construction,” Smith said.
The Chamber will use the east side of the Glenwood/Crescent parking lot as the concert venue, across from The Beer Cellar. The western side will be available for parking.
If the concert series become more popular, the Chamber would look to close off some of the western portion of that lot.
Concertgoers can bring carryout but not alcohol. Craft beer and hard seltzer from Two Hound Red Brewing Co. will be available for purchase at the concerts.
Two restaurants will serve crowds each concert night, along with dessert carts.
People can bring their lawn chairs starting at 5 p.m. Concerts will run from 6 to 9 p.m.
For details, visit glenellynchamber.com/summer.