Weekly summer concert series to start Wednesday in South Elgin
South Elgin has big plans for the summer at Panton Mill Park. They just don't happen to include holding Riverfest.
Village President Steve Ward says he hears about it quite a bit, but people don't usually know the whole story.
"Lots of people come up to me and say, 'No more Riverfest, huh?'" Ward said. "What I tell them is that we're taking away Friday night, Saturday midday and Sunday afternoon, and we're giving them 13 concert nights, three movies in the park, three cruise nights and then a four-band festival with fireworks in August."
Their response is usually the same, he says.
"I didn't know that. I just heard you weren't doing Riverfest," according to Ward.
After an extensive renovation that included adding a band shell to the park in 2020, event plans were put on hold because of the pandemic. The village held six small-scale concerts with singers using prerecorded musical backing in 2021.
This year, they're ramping up for a season of weekly events with full bands at the park.
"Instead of one three-day event with carnival rides and some bands and a little bit of food, let's turn it into something that's gonna last all summer," Ward said.
He added that while people enjoyed 20-year-old Riverfest, it was getting stale.
"It started off as something for our 100-year anniversary, and it was fun, so we did it again," Ward said. "And over the years, it was still fun. But I found every year it got visited less and less."
The renovations to the park have created a space well-suited to holding frequent concerts. The new electrical infrastructure and band shell have eliminated the need for renting generators and tents.
"We don't have to do any setup except invite people," Village Administrator Steve Super said.
Last year's small concerts routinely drew several hundred people, and they drew more than a thousand to their End of Summer Fling, which they'll hold again this year on August 20 with four bands, food and a fireworks show.
Over the winter, the city council agreed to allow people to bring alcohol to the park during the concerts.
"We kind of look at it now like a mini-Ravinia," Super said.
The 13 concert schedule kicks off June 1 with 28Days and features shows by Bluewater Kings, The Moods, the ECC Concert Band and Mariachi Herencia de Mexico among others. Different food trucks will be on hand for each concert.
They've also scheduled a half dozen kid- and senior-friendly shows for Wednesday afternoon through the summer, in addition to the movie and cruise nights.
"People can come down, have a picnic, have your whole family and enjoy the evening, and it's really no cost," Super said. "We just want to see people come down and enjoy themselves and spend time with their families and friends and neighbors and have that kind of small-town get-together."