It takes a village to pulls off Oswego Prairiefest events
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media June 7, 2012 11:16AM
♦ June 14-17
♦ PrairieFest Park, 91 Plank Road, Oswego
♦ (630) 554-1010
Updated: June 7, 2012 3:17PM
Astronaut Barbie will kick off this year’s Oswego PrairieFest with a bang.
The 24th annual Oswego PrairieFest, presented by the Oswegoland Park District, attracts nearly 40,000 visitors over the course of the weekend, said Kristie Vest, special events supervisor with the Park District.
PrairieFest runs June 14 to 17 and is held at PrairieFest Park on Plank Road in Oswego. Headlining the main stage entertainment this year is the Gin Blossoms on Saturday night.
The fest also features children’s activities, a petting zoo, pony rides, camel rides, food vendors and more. An Expo Village will have more than 200 businesses and crafters promoting their services or selling their wares.
“It really is a community festival,” Vest said. “It’s something where people in town will come to us and say, ‘We’d really like to have a car show.’ And they’ll put on a car show. Or the ladies who put together quilts say, ‘We’d like to raffle off a quilt.’ And so we have quilts. And the firefighters do a bucket brigade. It really is something that comes from the community. It’s quite organic, in that respect.”
Live music will be in abundance as well. Thursday, the popular group Wedding Banned will perform.
“They put on quite a show,” she said. “It’s sort of like ‘The Wedding Singer’ comes to life onstage.”
Chicagoland band 7th Heaven plays Friday night, with the group Back Country Roads opening. The band Generations opens for the Gin Blossoms Saturday.
Free entertainment is one thing that PrairieFest is committed to, she said.
“We try to have as many free events as possible,” she said. “We have free pony rides and free fishing clinics — there are so many things going on.”
Before the bands play on Saturday, Montgomery resident Colin Sullivan will attempt to set a Guinness World Record by balancing an eight-foot ladder on his chin for one full minute, she said.
“He’s done this on the ‘Ellen’ show and on ‘Regis and Kelly,’” she said. “This is the first time he’s tried to do it for a sustained period of time.”
In addition to the annual 5K race and the one-mile Prairie Dog Jog on Sunday (dogs welcome), there will be bed races for charity. Teams of five will race down Theodore Drive and back, and it their bed wins their division, the money goes to the charity of their choice, she said.
“We’ve had two people come forward and given money to us so that those purses can be even bigger,” she said. “It should be a lot of fun for those spectators that come out and watch.”
Now, back to that flying Barbie.
“The Illinois Society of Amateur Rocketry is going to send a Barbie-chucker rocket into the air,” she said. “They take Astronaut Barbie and they put her in this rocket. She has a parachute attached to her and she is rocketed way high into the air and parachutes down when she is separated from her shuttle. That’s what is kicking off PrairieFest on Thursday.”
It’s quirky and fun and harkens back to the civic-minded feel of the fest, she said, because the club approached her and asked how they could be involved.
Friday begins with a quilt show and continues with an event called Wheels go Round, where children can see big vehicles. The entertainment starts in the children’s tent at 11 a.m. and continues until 11 p.m. when 7th Heaven finishes on the main stage.
“Friday tends to be a children’s day,” she said. “We have Wheels Go Round and preschool activities and school-age activities, and obstacle courses for the grade-school kids to run through. And it’s all free. It’s not one of those festivals where you have to keep your wallet out. We try and make sure people can come and have a great time seeing what we’ve got.”
The food vendors will feature a little of everything, she said, from Italian ice to deep-fried Snickers, along with kabobs, pizza, chicken, egg rolls, gyros and funnel cakes.
“That’s one of my favorite parts of the festival,” she said. “We offer really good food.”
PrairieFest is a nice chance to unwind after the busy school year, she said.
“I’ve always seen it as a homecoming of sorts,” she said. “It’s a chance for neighbors to gather together and have a good time.”