Starved Rock Country is home to some of the most exciting festivals and annual events Illinois has to offer. Join us as we explore some of the year-round gatherings you can enjoy during your trips to the region in 2023. For exact dates of these fests, be sure to follow Starved Rock Country on Facebook and explore our calendar at starvedrockcountry.com/local-events.
Eagle Watch Weekend
Jan. 28-29, 2023
Every winter, a small stretch of the Illinois River between Starved Rock State Park and the Illinois Waterway Visitors Center becomes a seasonal nesting point for beautiful bald eagles. These majestic creatures, with wingspans upwards of 8 feet in length, pay Starved Rock a visit every year when more northerly states’ rivers and lakes begin to freeze. During their wintering season, which lasts anywhere between December and March, you’ll often spot these eagles circling above broken ice, trying to find their next meal, or roosting among the island’s tallest trees – but the best time to spot them is Eagle Watch Weekend. This fest is devoted to bringing guests closer to these feathered friends with informational talks, eagle encounters, bird-watching excursions and discounted lodging bundles.
As part of the festivities, Starved Rock State Park will host Eagles at the Rock on Jan. 28. The fun will include a Starved Rock Saplings children’s program on bald eagles at 9:30 a.m., guided eagle viewing hikes at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and a birds-of-prey, live show with a real bald eagle at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Seating will be limited. For more information, follow Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks on Facebook.
Kites in Flight
May 20, 2023
Giant kites take to the skies over Ottawa during the Kites in Flight festival. Slated for May, this family-friendly fest will feature a vendor market, food and beverage sellers, kids crafts, live entertainment and an air flotilla of larger-than-life professional kites. The gathering has grown every year, bringing more and more kite fliers (both amateur and professional) to Starved Rock Country’s riverfront. Guests are encouraged to bring their own kites to the open flying portion of the event, or to purchase one from the specialty kite sellers at the event.
Streator Food Truck Fest
May 20, 2023
This takeover of Streator’s City Park is a can’t-miss event for foodies visiting Starved Rock Country. The Illinois food truck scene has grown substantially over the past few years, with trucks offering increasingly niche and delicious menu items. The Streator Food Truck Festival brings a selection of the best mobile chefs in the business to the historic downtown. The Walldogs committee, the Streator organization responsible for all the community murals, decided the event was so popular they’d host two events again. For more information on their fests, be sure to follow the Streator Food Truck Festival Facebook page.
Ottawa 2 Rivers Wine Festival
June 2-4, 2023
The Ottawa 2 Rivers Wine Festival is one of the signature annual festivals held in Starved Rock Country. This celebration of viticulture and great live music has brought together guests from around the state and across the country for three full days of fun. The fest takes place at the sprawling Jordan Block event space, located at the end of Ottawa’s downtown shopping district – just paces away from the Illinois River.
Fireworks are just one part of Streator’s week-long Fourth of July festivities. The city plays host to an impressive lineup of events, including a car show, a 5K race, carnival, talent show and top-tier live music. Past featured touring acts have included bands and artists like Everclear, Puddle of Mudd, Firehouse, Eddie Montgomery and many more.
Vintage Illinois Wine Festival
Get ready to uncork the fun at Vintage Illinois Wine Festival, one of the state’s largest beverage fests highlighting Illinois-made wines and held each year in the village of North Utica. Located less than five minutes from the gates of Starved Rock State Park, this fan-favorite fest allows guests to sample delectable wines from more than 25 top wineries. The farm-to-table, or vine-to-glass, festival highlights the passion and dedication these small businesses have to growing, mashing and aging for the perfect bottle of wine. Come out and taste the fruits of their labor and discuss the winemaking process with the owners and operators themselves.
Oct. 7-8, 2023
Utica’s Burgoo is a beloved event that has grown from a community block party into one of Illinois’ largest autumn events. This multigenerational, all-ages event pairs together Midwestern hospitality, artists, live entertainment and, of course, giant cast-iron pots of scratch-made Burgoo stew. The fun doesn’t stop there; this two-day celebration also features a sprawling vendor show that rivals many of the state’s iconic outdoor artisan markets in both quality and scope.
Chris Kringle Market
Get into the seasonal spirit at downtown Ottawa’s Chris Kringle Market. This fan-favorite market features artisan gift vendors, tasty holiday treats, traditional German-style beer, and memorable activities for the whole family to enjoy. More than 70 curated vendors will take over Ottawa’s Jordan Block and Washington Square Park during select December weekends. The market also will feature special seasonal activities and free performances; there is no shortage of exciting family-friendly events happening in Ottawa.
Home For The Holidays
Morris’s beloved Home For The Holidays celebration is a three-day-long festival featuring horse-drawn carriage rides, a lighted holiday parade, a Christmas house walk and much more. Santa also will visit Home For The Holidays, greeting children in his hut along the historic I&M Canal.
Celebration of Lights
The city of La Salle’s spectacular Celebration of Lights takes place each year at the city’s sprawling Rotary Park. One of the largest holiday attractions in north central Illinois, the massive collection of illuminated displays is back and bigger than ever before. Conveniently located near I-39, the astounding drive-thru light show will feature well over 300 themed holiday displays, each sponsored by an area business. The Celebration of Lights is free to view, but donations are encouraged to continue to grow the community-led project.
Source: The Daily Chronicle