Rotary GroveFest returns to Downers Grove

As distance grows between present day and when the pandemic started, annual events once torn away and fractured by safety precautions are returning to full swing.

The Rotary GroveFest is no exception.

After a pandemic-era fest last year, members of the Rotary Club of Downers Grove are excited to see the fest at full capacity with old and new things in store. This year’s fest will begin Thursday and run through Sunday.

“We’re very excited to be opening Thursday night with bands and the beer garden,” said Lisa Rasin, chairperson of the committee organizing the event. “We’re back to normal, and we’re excited, as well as the community.”

A four-day event as large as Rotary GroveFest doesn’t just get thrown together. It takes months of planning and hundreds of volunteers. Many of the volunteers for the event are nonprofit organizations, Rotary member Keith Hoffman said, and despite the large number of volunteers the fest already has, there is a need for more.

It takes nearly 500 volunteers to run the event, Rasin said, and the Rotary Club is looking for people interested in volunteering specifically for Thursday setup and Sunday tear down. Anyone 18 and older can volunteer for setup and tear down, Rasin said. The Rotary Club has a stipend program that provides pay to some qualified volunteers, she added.

“These things can’t be put on without volunteers, and our volunteers are strong, but we need more. We always need more,” Hoffman said. “We’re responsible for tearing it all down and setting it all up and everything in between.”

As for planning, the committee never really stops, Hoffman said. Whether Rotary members are meeting or not, the event takes anywhere from eight to 10 months to organize, Rasin said. From coordinating which restaurants and businesses will have booths to booking bands for the stage, the fest keeps Rotary members busy.

This year’s entertainment lineup features some familiar names as well as some new ones, including popular ‘80s cover band Sixteen Candles, who will perform from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, and pop rock band 7th Heaven, who will perform from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday.

The restaurant and business booths featured along Main Street will be a highlight, Hoffman said. Many of the booths represent local businesses. One booth Hoffman said he is particularly excited about is the D’Capo booth. D’Capo, he said, is run out of a gas station on Ogden and Belmont and serves Italian food.

Rasin said the Rotary Club expects thousands of people will show up at the fest. Money raised at the event will go right back into the community, Rasin said. The Rotary Club could not put on the event without the support of the community, the village of Downers Grove, the Downers Grove Downtown Management Corporation and all of the participating businesses and restaurants, she said.

“This is an event that takes a lot of participation,” Hoffman said. “There’s a lot of moving parts, and we’re extremely happy to put this event on for the community.”