A beloved festival will return in full force this summer as Byronfest takes place July 9-11 with all the fun, food and friendship that local folks have enjoyed since 1988.
Both entertainment stages will be back, as well as the 5K run, bags tournament, parade, contests, quilt show, special foods and other features that typically draw 25,000 to 30,000 people to downtown Byron each second weekend of July.
The festival is coordinated by two full-time employees and one summer intern at Byron Chamber of Commerce along with 300 volunteers, says Sarah Downs, Chamber executive director.
“We also subcontract duties to various nonprofit groups in Ogle County like the Oregon Chamber of Commerce, local sports teams and various service clubs.”
Byronfest is the primary way Byron Chamber of Commerce supports itself. Byron Bank has helped to sponsor the festival every year since it began.
“If we didn’t have such a caring community, there’s no way we could pull this off,” says Downs. “People are really stepping up to help like always. I think everyone is just so ready to have some fun!”
The Excelon Generation Stage and Byron Lions Club Stage will both offer live music all three nights. The first is dedicated wholly to country music and the latter presents a variety of “fun, happy, danc-y music,” says Downs. “It’s nearly the same lineup we planned for 2020 before we had to cancel because of the pandemic. The Toby Keith tribute band is really exciting – the guy looks and sounds just like Toby Keith.”
The tribute band, Made in America, takes the stage at 9:30 Saturday night.
The layout of the fest will be a bit different this year, as will the carnival company, All Around Amusements, says Nick Peterson, Byronfest manager and Chamber summer intern.
“They’re offering a special Friends with Disabilities program,” says Peterson. Each special needs child can bring a guest and enjoy free rides from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday before the carnival opens.
The new amusement company also offers a carnival Mega Pass that allows unlimited rides and entry onto the festival grounds all three days. A pass costs $50 in advance and $60 at the festival. A single-day Day Mega Pass is $30. With a Mega Pass purchase, the $8 purple wristband entrance fee is waived.
For those who want to enjoy just a few rides, individual ride tickets will be sold at the festival for $1.25 each.
“The Mega Pass is a way for families to keep the expense down,” says Downs. “Paying $3 to $5 per ride per child was really adding up. Now for $50 each they can keep riding all weekend long.”
The 5K trail run (or walk if you wish) is a favorite activity “because the Byron Forest Preserve District does a tremendous job of setting that up and it’s one of the few local 5Ks that’s actually on a trail,” says Downs.
The labors of talented quilters will be displayed at the Byron Quilt Show at Byron Museum. First-place winners in 10 categories will win cash prizes. Quilt registration ends on July 7. The cost to enter a quilt for judging in the show is $5.
The Byronfest Parade steps off Sunday at 2 p.m. from Maple and 2nd streets and will travel east on 2nd, north on Colfax and then east on 3rd Street, ending at Market and 3rd. There’s no cost to be in the parade, just fill out an application online and show up by 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
“The more the merrier,” says Downs of parade participation.
Both Downs and Peterson grew up attending Byronfest and appreciate the way it’s become a reunion of sorts for old friends of many generations.
“It’s fun to hear the chatter around town,” says Downs. “People who grew up around here enjoy coming back to town for it and love seeing the familiar faces. And people new to Byron want to volunteer so they can get to know people.”
“My friends and I looked forward to it every year when I was growing up and now I’m getting to see the planning and work that goes into it,” says Peterson. “Everybody looks forward to it.”
Purchase a Mega Pass at the Byron Chamber of Commerce office at 232 W. 2nd St. (upstairs in Byron City Hall) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Find the complete entertainment lineup and event schedule at Byronfest.org. ❚