Central Illinois loves its fairs and festivals; here’s seven to visit downstate
From Springfield to Mattoon, from Bloomington-Normal to Decatur, we’ve put together our list of the top seven 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.)
Chambanamoms.com thanks the Champaign County Fair for presenting this guide.
The Champaign County Fair has been a tradition since the early 1850’s. At the fair you can see 4-H, Open, and Junior Open livestock and non-livestock shows, educational displays revolving around conservation and agriculture, various vendors from different businesses and organizations across the county, a carnival, and a variety of ground and grandstand entertainment. It is an event for families to come to create summertime memories that last a lifetime!
For more information: website or Facebook
Seven Great Summer Festivals in Central Illinois
What: National Tom Sawyer Days
When: Saturday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 4
Where: Hannibal, Mo. (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.
What: Balloons Over Vermilion
When: Friday, July 7 and Saturday, July 8
Where: Vermilion Regional Airport
How much: $5; 10 and under free with each paid adult. Parking $5. Cash only.
Highlights: In years past, there have been 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. Find it on Facebook.
What: Mattoon Bagelfest
When: Tuesday, July 18 through Saturday, July 22
Where: Peterson Park at 500 Broadway Ave., Mattoon
How much: Most events free; mainstage events ticketed
Highlights: Free bagel breakfast and Bagelfest Parade, Run for the Bagel 5K, carnival rides, mainstage acts. Find it on Facebook.
What: EffingHAM-JAM BBQ Cookoff
When: Saturday, July 22
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, but check the website or Facebook page for updated info when it gets closer. You can also check our list of fun things to do with kids in Effingham or go eat at Pinky’s on Lake Sara or Firefly Grill if you don’t get your fill of BBQ while at the fest.
What: Illinois State Fair
When: Thursday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 20
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 2023 State Fair. Big names like Old Dominion and REO Speedwagon 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. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 27
Where: Peoria riverfront
How much: Adults $10 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. 25 and Saturday, Aug. 26
Where: Various locations throughout Lincoln
How much: Free admission, some activities have a cost
Highlights: This festival 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.
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