Summer and fall in Peoria, Illinois, is festival season, where the excitement begins in early June and doesn’t end until late fall. Events take place all throughout the Peoria area, including in and around downtown Peoria’s arts, entertainment and dining district on the Illinois River waterfront. Here are some of the top festivals and events that you won’t want to miss this summer and fall in the Peoria area.
From outdoor concerts and festivals to special events, Peoria RiverFront provides plenty of live music performances from late May into October. They include the Tailgate And Tallboys Music Festival, featuring more than 30 top country acts that play during six days at four festivals, in June through September. In addition, throughout the summer, the Bud Light Concert Series incorporates multiple events at different indoor and outdoor venues. Performances showcase the best touring bands to visit Central Illinois.
A favorite Memorial Day weekend event, the Summer Camp Music Festival at Three Sisters Park, in Chillicothe, brings together more than 20,000 attendees plus 100 bands playing on seven stages, for three days. You can attend musician workshops or kid-friendly activities, browse and buy art or compete in Field Day games and challenges. There’s great food and, of course, plenty of space to camp.
Held in early June each year, Washington’s Good Neighbor Days festival is a three-day extravaganza full of tasty concessions, a Rotary pancake breakfast, pony rides, a petting zoo and Toddler Town—a fun spot where children under 5 can play on inflatables, blow bubbles and watch magic shows. There are also plenty of carnival rides and dozens of exhibitors sharing their crafts. Active visitors will enjoy the 5K Run/1 Mile Walk or a 7-mile family bike ride. Check out fireworks with the kids, or enjoy adult time at KEP’s Sports Bar and Grill Festival Garden.
For a small admission charge you’ll hear plenty of live music during mid-June, when Peoria hosts the River City Jazz Festival. This one-day event features performances by Illinois musicians. In 2015, the Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra, Laughing Horse Quartet, and Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project entertained the audience while David Hoffman and Friends, Preston Jackson & Friends, and JC and The Redemption also delighted the crowd.
A late June event, the Olde English Faire takes place at Wildlife Prairie Park in Hanna City, Illinois. Enjoy medieval jousting, sword fighting and falconry, belly dancing and archery competitions, and puppets and other kid-friendly shows. Many vendors sell their artistic creations, and there is plenty of food available.
Among Illinois events surrounding July Fourth, Red, White & Boom offers the state’s largest fireworks display along the Riverfront in downtown Peoria. The multiday event celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Entertainers include Christian-inspired music, tribute bands, classic and contemporary country tunes, and an outdoor dance party. Other offerings include: street performers, kids’ activities and a VIP viewing area with food, soda, wine and beer (additional admission).
Also in July, the Heart of Illinois Fair is a nine-day Peoria event full of livestock competitions, amusement rides and classic food concessions, such as corn dogs and funnel cakes. Participate in the 5K Run/Walk or enter the Bags Tournament. Motor sports demonstrations include: Stock Semi Pulls, Big Rig Super Semi Pulls, and Truck and Tractor Pulls. Rock, karaoke, bluegrass and Beer Tent bands provide musical entertainment.
Taking place along the Peoria RiverFront in mid-August, the 37th Taste of Peoria offers food samples, and specialty cocktails, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Whether you prefer appetizers, pizza, barbecue, ice cream, jalapenos or egg rolls, you won’t go home hungry. There’s a free shuttle service available and live entertainment on two stages.
All things Irish characterize the three-day Erin Feis, a Peoria RiverFront event that began in 1981 and takes place the end of August. Organizers and visitors celebrate Irish culture through its music, sales of traditional Irish jewelry and artwork, and religious services. Irish food and drink includes tastings of Jameson Irish Whiskey and vendors found throughout the grounds. Cultural Village vendors will enlighten visitors about Irish history, while Highland Games showcases ancient Irish sports.
Held at the Peoria Civic Center, each August, the IGNITE Peoria exists to ‘inspire innovation, release artistic vision and spark the passionate imagination of our community.’ Purchase items from guest artists, and exercise your artistic muscles at Creation Stations, from loom weaving to drumming and jewelry making. Performing artists fill multiple stages and there’s plenty of great food available.
On Labor Day weekend, and 28 years after it began, the Illinois Blues Festival is becoming the Peoria Blues & Heritage Music Festival. Held at the Peoria RiverFront, the September event features world-class artists in blues, roots, funk, soul and every other music genre. Local businesses join in the fun with after-hours events, making this a community-wide musical celebration.
Fulton County’s Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive and Fall Festival takes place on the first and second weekends of September. Along the road you’ll see the only Spoon River dam, and a public boat dock at London Mills. The Ellisville Opera House is also visible, and blazing seasonal foliage makes this a memorable road trip. Taste apple butter made before your eyes at London Mills, sample hot cider and baked potatoes in Farmington, savor chicken and noodles at Smithfield’s Red Brick School or terrific baked goods at Duncan Mills, and sample Ellisville’s famous ham.
On the first weekend after Labor Day, The Pekin Marigold Festival, has drawn visitors for more than 40 years. Organizers crown Miss Marigold and Little Mr. & Miss Marigold, and oversee the Marigold Festival Parade, with more than 130 floats and other vehicles. A 5K Run/Walk, chalk art and Top Dog contests complement a Kids Experience and an Upper Limits Rock Climbing Wall.
In mid-September, Peoria’s Oktoberfest features German music and log-sawing contests. Tasty snacks include pork chop on a stick, brats and much more.
One of Illinois’ premier family festivals, the Morton Pumpkin Festival, celebrates 50 years this fall. The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales make an appearance and there’s a massive Craft Faire, as well as photography and art shows. Pumpkins rule during this popular event, with a Pumpkin Sweet Shoppe, a Pumpkin Grille and a Pumpkin Princess contest. There’s even a Kiddie Parade through the downtown.
In late September, the Peoria Art Guild hosts a Fine Art Fair near the RiverFront. Fifty-five years after it began, this is one of the nation’s oldest art fairs, with 150 jury-selected artists from throughout the U.S. and the world. You’ll find hands-on art activities and entertainment, plus great food, wine and beer.
The festival fun doesn’t end in Peoria just because daylight savings time kicks ins. Events continue into the holidays as East Peoria welcomes the season with its Festival of Lights holiday light show. Since 1984, the magical extravaganza that kicks off with a parade in November and then showcases all things lights through Dec, 31, has drawn visitors from all over the country.
Folepi’s Winter Wonderland fills VFW Post 2078 Park with a mesmerizing Parade of Lights, plus holiday lights exhibits such as Western Town or Space Land, and narrated nativity displays. In addition, the Peoria Civic Center hosts the beloved classic, “The Nutcracker,” each season. You can also take a Holiday River Cruise or watch the Festival of Lights Queen Pageant.
Winterfest in downtown Peoria is an outdoor ice rink that skaters of all ages can enjoy. Sip some hot cocoa, don you stocking cap and get ready for an evening skating under the twinkling lights.
Whether you’re a music lover, an arts fan, or an outdoor enthusiast, Peoria summer and fall events offer something for everyone. See more events on our calendar here.