“Big City Festival. Small Town Heart” is the theme of this year’s Petunia Festival July 2-4 in Dixon, Ill.
The cancellation of the festival last year due to the pandemic has only strengthened the community pride and involvement that goes into planning the event each year, says Jenna Dempsey, vice president of marketing and a past president of the Dixon Petunia Festival Committee.
“We see people appreciating what we’ve taken for granted for so long,” says Dempsey. “Everybody is ready to have a festival again. Even though it was difficult last year, more people than ever were asking how they could help.”
With more sponsors and businesses participating than in past years, and an array of local musicians to be featured at the July 4th celebration, Dempsey is proud of what her community has been able to accomplish despite the pandemic.
The Dixon Petunia Festival Committee starts planning for the festival in December. This year, they had to be “cautiously optimistic” that pandemic restrictions would relax by summer.
“With all the local support, it just proves how amazingly talented our community is and how everyone pulled together to make this happen. If you live in Dixon, chances are you have participated in some way,” Dempsey says.
Illinois moved into Phase Five of the COVID-19 plan on June 11, which removed all pandemic restrictions, notes Jennifer Bubrick, president of the Petunia Festival Board of Directors. Still, to increase people’s safety, sanitizing stations will be set up around the grounds and cleaning crews will work hard to keep high-touch areas clean, says Bubrick.
General admission tickets will be sold at the gate for $10. Admission is free on Sunday.
Festival highlights include the North American Midway Entertainment Carnival at 5 p.m. Thursday (before the festival begins) and Friday and from 1 p.m. to close on Saturday and Sunday on Lincoln Statue Drive between Dixon High School and the riverfront.
The parade, with the theme “Home for the Holidays,” will step off at 1 p.m. Sunday, traveling from St. Mary’s Catholic School on Galena Avenue north to the high school. There’s still time to enroll in the parade at petuniafestival.org.
Fireworks will be at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on the riverfront and the music accompanying the display will be broadcast on River Country 101.7FM radio.
A traditional pancake breakfast will be served from 6 to 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday at Dixon High School.
Other activities include craft shows, a disc golf tournament, a patriotic concert by the Dixon Municipal Band, a fishing derby, an ice cream social, Old Settler Log Cabin tours, Reagan home tours, a Reagan Run and tennis classic. Local businesses and organizations plan their own events; find details on their websites.
Friday’s live music will perform on the Stella Stage at Galena Avenue and includes Pat Anderson from 5 to 6 p.m.; County Line Live from 6 to 8 p.m.; Dicky Johnson from 8 to 9 p.m.; and Brushville from 9 to 11 p.m.
On Saturday, Evan Atherton will perform from 5 to 6 p.m.; McCrae from 6 to 8 p.m.; Robbie LeBlanc and the Real Live Show from 8 to 9 p.m.; and Rod Tuffcurrls and the Bench Press from 9 to 11 p.m.
Sunday’s performers are Lyle Grobe & the Rhythm Ramblers from 3 to 5 p.m., and Gina Venier from 6 to 8 p.m.
Admission to the entertainment area is $10 at the gate and tickets won’t be sold in advance. Other musicians will randomly perform at the Reagan Stage at Hennepin Avenue and River Street.
Discounted carnival pre-sale tickets and 50/50 fundraiser tickets can be purchased at Festival headquarters, 77 S. Hennepin Ave., where people also can sign up to volunteer. Hours vary, so first call (815) 288-7465. Raffle tickets will be sold during city market on Wednesday nights, too.
The Petunia Festival is traditionally held during the July 4th holiday and brings the community together to promote pride, tourism, and development for the Dixon area.
The sale of 50/50 raffle tickets is the main fundraiser and pays for the annual fireworks display. A winning ticket will be announced from the main stage before the fireworks. Ticket prices are one for $1 or six for $5 and can be purchased at Coffee Crush Dixon, Curate Dixon, Discover Dixon, Herbal Essentials, J Boutique, Oliver’s Corner Market, Rustic Roots, Shamrock Pub, Strong Bridge Running, Twin Blend, Venier Jewelers, Inc., Willey Flower Company and other businesses.
Use the hashtags #petuniafest and #savethefireworks (and tag the Petunia Festival) to share a picture of your purchased fundraiser tickets for a chance to win an entry ticket to the entertainment venue. Top pictures will be chosen by the executive board and a one-night entry ticket (your choice of Friday or Saturday night) will be awarded.
For the most complete festival information, go to the Facebook page or petuniafestival.org. ❚