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Riverfest 2013 going strong in South Elgin

Alan Martinez his sRandy 7 Elgride carousel during South Elgin's Riverfest Special Night for Special Kids last year. The 2013

Alan Martinez and his son Randy, 7 of Elgin ride the carousel during South Elgin's Riverfest Special Night for Special Kids last year. The 2013 festival continues through this Sunday night. | Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: September 17, 2013 8:22AM

SOUTH ELGIN — Through Sunday night, the volunteers who work the village’s Riverfest Express said, they expect 4,000 to 5,000 people a day to visit the festival.

For South Elgin, they said, the 17th annual event is more than a community festival — it is a reason for old friends and neighbors to come home.

“There are people who plan their vacations” around the four-day festival, said Mary VanWinkle, one of the events co-chairs.

The festival is held at Panton Mill Park, on the river side of village hall, 10 N. Water St.

The festival unofficially kicked off Wednesday evening with “Special Night for Special Kids.” Since 2001, Riverfest has invited families with special-needs children to come and have a night at the carnival/festival just for them.

Nearly 1,000 people, including parents and siblings of disabled children, attended this year, said co-chair Joyce Ware.

The festival continues through Sunday and offers live music, local food vendors, a carnival, and other special events throughout the weekend. It is capped off with fireworks beginning at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, shot off from a barge in the Fox River, Ware said.

Other events scheduled for the next three days include bands playing beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, noon on Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.

SEBA Park, across State Street from the village hall, will be the site for a 40-vendor business and craft expo from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and a car show from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

One amenity offered in the past will not be available this year — the Riverfest Express Trolley. For several years, the trolley ran from parking lots on the east side of the river to the festival and to the Fox Valley Trolley Museum at 361 S. LaFox St. (Route 31). But there were too few users during the 2012 Riverfest to justify the expense, Ware said.

What does make Riverfest a rarity among community festivals is its success, both Ware and VanWinkle noted. Each year, the festival creates enough income to get it funded for the following year. While South Elgin does supply the police and public works employees to set up and patrol the festival, the village does not provide additional funding.

“It is the community, volunteers and the committee itself that makes this happen. They put their hearts and souls into it,” VanWinkle said.

“There is a reason that we are called ‘The Community that Cares,’ ” she said.

While the festival makes a little money each year, it isn’t a huge amount, Ware added. Help from the village’s finance department, and all of the village departments, also ensures a well-run event, she said. “The entire staff helps out with this.”

More information on the festival and events is at

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