Mother Nature beats up iFest, but doesn’t win
by Janelle Walker For The Courier-News August 31, 2013 6:04PM
Jeff Morello, of Elgin, tunes a Celtic harp, Saturday, during the International Festival at Festival Park in Elgin. Dave Shields/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:34AM
ELGIN — A plea went out on Facebook at about 11 p.m. Friday night, asking Elgin residents if they could loan their pop-up tents to the second-annual International Festival.
By Saturday morning, that Facebook plea “went viral,” said Danise Habun, one of the International Festival organizers. The plea was seen by 3,400 people, she said.
By the time the festival got under way — mostly on time, but without the planned parade — there were not only enough tents, but some of the offers of loaner tents had to be turned away, she said.
“There was one guy who said ‘My wife saw this on Facebook, and we had to help,’” Habun said.
The 60 tents that city staff and volunteers had spent the better part of Friday getting set up for Saturday’s festival were destroyed — blown over and mangled by the storm that started blowing through the area at about 5 p.m.
“Last night was a major act of God,” said Habun.
Of the tents that had been put up, only the larger food vendor and kids zone areas and the smaller dominos tournament tent survived the storm.
The rest of the tents were blown completely down — some even over the top of the fence lining the river side of the park. Crews grabbed those tents before they floated down the river, but dozens were ruined — the canopies ripped and the metal poles mangled.
“It looked like a war zone,” Habun said.
Crews were back at Festival Park on South Grove by 7 a.m., putting tents back up and getting the stage set for Saturday’s entertainment acts.
Not, however, without a few more hiccups.
At 10 a.m. — an hour before the parade was set to start — that portion of the event was canceled because of the morning downpour and the threat of more rain.
For a short time, Festival Park was evacuated Saturday morning as more lightning rolled through Elgin.
The Kite Festival still went on — but without vendor and demonstrator Chicago Kites. That company, looking at wind and weather reports, said they could not put kites in the air if there was a possibility of more lightning strikes, said Ron Weiner, aka “Mr. Cheaps.”
Still, more than 100 children had stopped by the kite table to make their own paper kites, and the kite competition still went on at 6 p.m., Weiner said.
Opening ceremonies started about 15 minutes late, Habun added, but the rest of the day’s acts were on time and none of the vendors or acts canceled, either.
By 6 p.m., more than 1,000 people had attended the festival. Evening numbers were not available by press time.
This year was a bigger, better festival, Habun said. They had a 100 percent increase in food vendors — serving everything from pad thai to roasted sweet potatoes.
“Look at all of the happy faces,” Habun said of the crowd.