Central Illinois loves its festivals, and summer festivals can’t be topped
From Springfield to Mattoon, from Bloomington-Normal to Decatur, we’ve put together our list of the top eight summer festivals in Central Illinois, most of them out of our immediate coverage area. We consider summer to be between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Don’t worry, we have a list of Champaign-Urbana area festivals too.
Thanks to the Champaign County Fair for presenting this post. The Champaign County Fair is scheduled July 22 through July 31, 2021! Fair Board and staff are currently working to put on the Champaign County Fair as scheduled. The health and safety of fair-goers is our top priority and we’ll continue to work closely with the C-U Department of Public Health and the national CDC. To get the latest schedule, more information or to buy tickets click here.
Eight Great Summer Festivals in Central Illinois:
What: National Tom Sawyer Days
When: Wednesday, June 30 through Sunday, July 4
Where: Hannibal, Missouri (right on the Illinois border, so we’re bending the definition of “Central Illinois” for this one)
How much: coming soon
Highlights: Located right along the Mississippi River, this area is full of history all year long. The festival includes a frog-jump contest, fence painting, mud volleyball tournament, carnival rides, live music and fireworks over the river on the 4th. Find info on Facebook, too.
What: Balloons Over Vermilion
When: Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10
Where: Vermilion Regional Airport
How much: $5; kids under 10 free. Parking $5. Cash only.
Highlights: Tethered hot air balloon rides, nightly balloon glows, carnival, kids’ games, touch-a-truck, food vendors and more, all happening with the landscape of gorgeous hot air balloons surrounding the area.
What: Mattoon Bagelfest
When: Tuesday, July 13 through Saturday, July 17
Where: Peterson Park at 500 Broadway Ave., Mattoon (map)
How much: Most events free; mainstage events ticketed
Highlights: Free bagel breakfast 8-10 a.m. and Bagelfest Parade Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.; Run for the Bagel 5K; carnival rides; mainstage acts.
What: Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66 in Bloomington
When: Saturday, July 17
Where: Bloomington and surrounding locations
How much: Most events free
Highlights: Attention history buffs. Lincoln in Bloomington? Sure, why not! This year’s festival is a hybrid of zoom and in-person events. In-person events include outdoor children’s activities and free admission into the McLean County Museum of History, craft kit pick-ups, and an 1858 style baseball game with the Prairie Chicken Base Ball team of McLean County. Get more info on their Facebook page as the event gets closer.
What: EffingHAM-JAM and Kansas City BBQ Society State BBQ Championship
When: Friday, July 23 and Saturday, July 24
Where: downtown Effingham
How much: Free to attend; free live music; other entertainment may be ticketed. Food for sale.
Highlights: OK, we love the play on words here for this festival. There’s tons of BBQ — so come hungry. There are kids activities on Saturday, but check the website or Facebook page for updated info. You can also check out list of fun things to do with kids in Effingham or go eat at Pinky’s on Lake Sara if you don’t get your fill of BBQ while at the fest.
What: Illinois State Fair
When: Thursday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 22
Where: State fairgrounds, Springfield (directions here)
How much: Adults (13-59) — $10 Friday/Saturday, $5 other days; children (12 and under) — free; senior citizens (60 and older) — $3; vehicle parking (single day) — $5. Grandstand tickets vary.
Highlights: Check back later in the season for our Insider’s Guide to the 2021 State Fair. Big names like Kane Brown, Toby Keith and the I Love the 90’s Tour are in the grandstand lineup, but it is all of the free entertainment that draws families to the fair year after year. Free children’s entertainers, free face painting, all kinds of ag education and things like pig racing and water circus are all guaranteed to delight.
What: Peoria’s Erin Feis
When: Friday, Aug. 27 through Sunday, Aug. 29
Where: Peoria riverfront
How much: Free admission between 4 and 5 p.m Friday. Otherwise, adults $9 purchased online in advance; weekend event pass $25; Children under 12 are free, but must be accompanied by an adult. Free admission on Sunday (at Mass) with a canned good donation from 9:30 – 11 a.m or if you wear a kilt on Sunday.
Highlights: It’s St. Patrick’s Day in August. You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy this three-day festival which includes a variety of activities including typical fair fare like food and music; but there’s also cultural activities and an area for “wee folks” (open noon-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). Don’t miss the Highland Games (Saturday and Sunday) while you’re there.
What: Balloons Over 66 Festival
When: Friday, Aug. 27 through Sunday, Aug. 29
Where: Driving range at the Lincoln Park District
How much: Free admission, some activities have a cost
Highlights: This festival, which hasn’t happened in a couple of years, features balloons that are launched from all over Lincoln (even some from backyards). Saturday evening’s Balloon Glow is a definite highlight. Music, food and more.