For Ottawa’s Heather Pursley, there was no better place to be on Friday night than downtown Yorkville where the free music flowed like the Fox River.
“It’s our fourth time here and it’s good that it’s close to home and the scenery is beautiful,” she said as she settled in to listen to the first musical act of the evening. at the Summer Solstice Festival. “You can just come and relax.”
The ninth annual Summer Solstice Festival was held Friday and Saturday at Bicentennial Riverfront Park in Yorkville.
The annual event also included special craft beer releases, food tents, a four- and two-mile road race, and a new arts feature known as Patrons Launching Arts in Yorkville.
Festival organizer and local lawyer Boyd Ingemunson, 49, of Yorkville, said he hopes 2,500 to 3,000 people will attend the two-day event which kicked off at 5 p.m. Friday.
“We have pretty much the same schedule this year, except for this new non-profit group that will be hosting two live art exhibits with a gasping artist,” he said. “We have these concrete foxes that are going to be placed all over town that different artists are going to paint. One of the artists will fox there near our law office on John Street.
Ingemunson said that despite other events happening throughout the weekend in the area, the Yorkville festival remains unique because of its musical focus.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it in the Chicago area – a free music festival featuring original independent music. Most music festivals, you get the same bands playing all the time or Chicago festivals that are $150 a day for a ticket,” he said. “It’s such a unique festival and that’s why we attract so many people from the region.”
Robert Pursley also enjoyed music with his wife and said “free music and finding out about different bands” was fun.
“I think it’s not in the city – not a street festival like people in the city – it’s a great alternative to that,” he said.
Scott McNeil from Lisle was among the audience members on Friday night watching the first band Crooked Tails perform.
He said Friday was his first appearance at the Midsummer Festival and that he was a musician himself and the band members Crooked Tails “were close friends”.
“This festival is cool because it’s family-friendly and it’s picturesque. It’s right here by the river and they have a lot of really good bands and a lot of really good music,” McNeil said. “For a festival in a small town, it often happens that you have two or three good bands and a few others and that’s it. Having two nights and a great music program is quite unique.
Sandwich’s Dale Hamilton said he had been to the festival at least two other times and praised the ‘great food and beer choices’.
“The music is great and you see a few people you know,” he said. “Coming out of COVID, it’s great to see people coming out. It makes a big difference knowing that you are going to get the full experience here.
Casey Merriman of Montgomery came with her young son and said that despite living in another city, they “love Yorkville”.
“Music here is free and that’s something else to do,” she said. “Last year, we knew a lot of people here. My son Paul, who is 2, had a blast dancing here last year, so we’ll see.”
David Sharos is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.