Press "Enter" to skip to content

Pandemic presented new challenges to Petunia Festival organizers

DIXON – Organizing the Petunia Festival amid the ever-changing conditions of each stage during the COVID-19 recovery has taken more than a bit of razzle dazzle.

Jennifer Bubrick, president of the festival’s volunteer board, said it was more like trying to schedule several festivals at once, while picking up the pieces after the pandemic canceled last year’s event.

Jennifer Bubrick is president of the board of directors for the Petunia Festival. She was working a booth Wednesday, June 23, 2021, during a Dixon street fair to sell 50-50 raffle  tickets, which supports the fireworks portion of the festival. Bubrick says the board had to prepare contingencies for each recovery phase of the coronavirus pandemic. The festival runs July 2-4.

Jennifer Bubrick is president of the board of directors for the Petunia Festival. She was working a booth Wednesday, June 23, 2021, during a Dixon street fair to sell 50-50 raffle tickets, which supports the fireworks portion of the festival. Bubrick says the board had to prepare contingencies for each recovery phase of the coronavirus pandemic. The festival runs July 2-4. (Troy Taylor/Sauk Valley)

Yet, the members’ persistence paid off. The festival will kick off as scheduled.

“We had a year off,” says Bubrick. “We missed it. Now we’re back. And it’s like: ‘Time to get back into it.’”

The first official event will be 1 p.m. Wednesday when members of the Petunia royalty court will conduct a craft session at the Dixon Public Library.

Tiffany Walker (right) finds a Nemo prize and hands it to Kassie Mullen who puts the prize fish on display Tuesday in Dixon. The carnival will open Thursday evening to kick off the Petunia Fest weekend.

Tiffany Walker (right) finds a Nemo prize and hands it to Kassie Mullen who puts the prize fish on display Tuesday in Dixon. The carnival will open Thursday evening to kick off the Petunia Fest weekend. (Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@shawmedia.com/)

Most of the events will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The parade will be smaller – there were 30 entries at last count. Even so, there is a lot to look forward to. The musical performers are almost exclusively local acts. The carnival opens Thursday.

Some familiar favorites are back. Think Pink Craft Show. Family Fun Night. Dixon Municipal Band. The 5K Reagan Run. Pancake breakfasts.

There is even a new event, a photographic scavenger hunt. Bubrick encountered kids asking to take her photo, trying to get a head start on the search. “I don’t think it starts until the first,” she said, enforcing the rules. Even so, “they were all excited. People are talking about it.”

Running an annual festival requires muscle memory, of a sort. The year off took its toll.

“We’re taking it slow this year,” Bubrick says, promising to be back in full force in 2022. “We are being financially smart with our money, because we really took a hit last year. So we scaled back a lot.”

Enthusiasm for the festival hasn’t been diminished, she says. “The community is super excited. People stop me everywhere I go.”

Prizes, rides and food are all set to go Thursday for the return of DIxon's Petunia Fest.

Prizes, rides and food are all set to go Thursday for the return of DIxon’s Petunia Fest. (Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@shawmedia.com/)

Bubrick is hopeful the festival will serve as a homecoming, of sorts; as she says, “a chance to see Mom and Dad” after being locked down during the pandemic. Members of her own high school class from 1996 have inquired about getting together.

With the state in Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, friends and families can make connections they haven’t been able to make until recently.

Pharoah's Fury gets a scrub down Tuesday afternoon ahead of the opening on Thursday in DIxon.

Pharoah’s Fury gets a scrub down Tuesday afternoon ahead of the opening on Thursday in DIxon. (Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@shawmedia.com/)

Getting to this point, however, was a chore. Each stage of the pandemic required a new plan for the festival. What events could be allowed? What restrictions had to be in place? Masks? Social distancing? What parameters could the carnival operate in?

Bubrick quickly lists them off: “We had a Bridge Phase plan. We had a Phase 5 plan. A Phase 3 plan. No matter what, we were going to do something.”

She pauses, thinking about the hours devoted to meeting Illinois Department of Public Health rules and restrictions each step of the way.

“We’ve become experts at IDPH guidelines.”

Throughout, the 10 members of the executive board and the 17 volunteer directors remained supportive and enthusiastic about the prospects for holding the festival. They met remotely, at first.

“They were at all the Zooms. Trying to cheerlead the whole way,” she says, ever grateful for the all-hands effort. “Everybody’s back together, saying: Let’s do this!”

In 15 years of working the festival, this was by far the most daunting effort. Bubrick was reminded of her first festival job, when she was a student at Northern Illinois University. She helped organize the Beanblossom music event, bringing music downtown.

“It was a catastrophe,” she admits. “I was a college student and Ed Lynott was like, ‘You have to go to the bars and get them on board and do this.’ I freaked out. Didn’t go to class that day. And we went from bar to bar to bar to make sure they were on board with having a band in the Beanblossom parking lot.”

Carnival prizes wait to be won starting Thursday in DIxon.

Carnival prizes wait to be won starting Thursday in DIxon. (Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@shawmedia.com/)

Highlights

Wednesday

Crafts with royalty, 1 p.m., Dixon Public Library

Thursday

Carnival, 5 p.m. Dixon High School

Friday

Pancakes, 6 a.m., Dixon High School cafeteria

Spin, sculpt, stretch, sculpt classes and HIIT, 6:30 a.m., TwinBlend

Brush and Bloom, 9 a.m., Old Lee County Courthouse

Bingo at the Elks, 10 a.m.

Think Pink Craft Show, noon, Loveland Community Home

Carnival, 5 p.m., Dixon High School

Live entertainment, 5 p.m., Reagan and Stella stages

Family Fun Night, 5 p.m., Old Lee County Courthouse

Ice Cream Social, 5 p.m., Old Lee County Courthouse

Dixon Municipal Band, 7 p.m., Old Lee County Courthouse

Ultimate Air Dogs, Lincoln Statue Drive

Saturday

Pancakes, 6 a.m., Dixon High School cafeteria

Reagan Run, 8 a.m., Lowell Park

Blind Draw Volleyball, 8 a.m., Plum Hollow

Disc Golf Tournament, 9 a.m., Page Park

Think Pink Craft Show, 9 a.m., Loveland Community Home

Art in the Park, 9 a.m., John Dixon Park

Bingo at the Elks, 10 a.m.

Carnival, 1 p.m., Dixon High School

Live entertainment, 2 p.m.

Ultimate Air Dogs, Lincoln Statue Drive

Sunday

Pancakes, 6 a.m., Dixon High School cafeteria

Community Worship, 10 a.m., Main Stage Downtown

Carnival, 1 p.m., Dixon High School

Parade, 1 p.m., St. Mary’s School

Old Settlers Cabin, 3 p.m.

Live entertainment, 3 p.m.

50-50 drawing, 9:20, Stella Stage

Fireworks, 9:30 p.m.

Go to petuniafestival.org or find it on Facebook for the complete schedule.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: