Rural Americans believe in their communities. Many seek solutions to problems rather than abandoning the places where they live. Every community is different. Community identity provides the foundation that makes “Country Sell.”
Many of the local festivals and celebrations have something for the whole family. With carnivals, parades, special presentations, and food, events like DeKalb Corn Fest, Sycamore’s Pumpkin Festival and Cinco de Mayo, Genoa Days, Malta Days, Hinckley’s Annual Fireworks Fest, Kingston Fest and Kardboard Boat Regatta, Kirkland’s 4th of July Celebration, Cortland’s Summer Fest, Shabbona’s Hometown Festival, Waterman’s Summerfest and Tractor Pull, DeKalb County Barn Tour, and Sandwich Fair are not to be missed.
Celebrations of Community Pride
Cortland Summer Fest
This two-day festival includes music, bands, and a car show.
DeKalb Corn Fest
DeKalb Corn Fest started out as a corn boil put on by Del Monte in 1957 to give away free corn to the citizens as harvest began. Corn Fest as we know it now, with music and vendor booths, began in 1977. At that time, the sound stage and beer garden were located in the alleyway between the Hillside Restaurant and the Egyptian Theatre. While the location has changed over the years, it is always a popular event, with over 100,000 people attending.
Although the Sandwich Fair is widely known for beginning in 1888, it actually began in 1858 when it was known as the Union Agricultural Institute, held on the east edge of Sandwich. The present fairgrounds were purchased in 1859 and in 1860 the event was renamed the Sandwich Agricultural Institute.
In early 1888, the 20-acre grounds were repurchased for the same amount they were sold for in the early 1880s when the first group disbanded. The fair has been continuous since 1888, running from two to the current five days, and the fair now covering 250 acres.
Harness racing has always been a feature of the fair, but that event is now held on only one day. Baseball was a popular sport and drew large crowds, with rival neighboring towns competing. Band concerts were part of the fair atmosphere. Today’s entertainment includes well-known singers, truck and tractor pulls, demolition derby, antique auto show, local bands, rides, and roving grounds entertainment.
Kirkland Fourth of July
This year, the 71st Fourth of July Celebration will be a three-day event, and the local Lions Club’s biggest fundraising opportunity of the year. Lions Club member Jeff Anderberg explained the holiday celebration is older than the Kirkland charter of the Lions Club, as the first celebration was put together to raise money for a local community member who had cancer. Four months after that holiday celebration, the Kirkland charter was created. Many of the Lions Club members who put together the event have been participating in and attending the event ever since they were children.
Almost all of the approximately $13,000 proceed raised each year will go back into the Kirkland community.
Waterman Lions Summerfest and Antique Tractor and Truck Show
The Waterman Lions Summerfest and Antique Tractor and Truck Show is always held on the third Saturday in July at Waterman Lions Park. The Waterman Lions Club conducts this fest as a community enrichment and fundraising project. There is no admission, and there is no charge for most events. This is a family-oriented affair that offers something for everyone.
The community works closely to make this a successful event. Breakfast is served by the United Neighborhood Church, lunch is provided by the Lions Club, and the Waterman Fire Department serves up a BBQ dinner.
The next summerfest will be on Saturday, July 20, 2019. The 2019 schedule will be posted in mid-to-late June.
Pumpkin Fest in Sycamore
The idea for Sycamore’s central celebration started simply with Wally Thurow filling his yard with pumpkins around Halloween. Then he invited others to include their decorated pumpkins on his lawn. Soon, however, he ran out of space. In 1962, with the support of the Sycamore Lions, the first Pumpkin Festival was held in downtown Sycamore.
This event is the largest draw to the community with over 100,000 visitors. The courthouse lawn is the center of activities, which include thousands of decorated pumpkins in the pumpkin contest, a historic homes walk, a pie eating contest, a carnival, a fun fair, craft shows and a 10K race. The festival concludes with a giant parade on Sunday afternoon.
DeKalb County Barn Tour
After many years of discussions, the DeKalb County Barn Tour started in 2014. This event is co-sponsored by the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center and DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (DAAHA). Every year at least seven barns in the county are highlighted. This event continues to grow, and the experience has evolved beyond just touring. A typical tours also includes seeing livestock, viewing new and old farm equipment, enjoying demonstrations and displays, family-friendly activities, and a relaxing drive through the countryside. In 2019, the Barn Tour takes place on August 10.