The 35th annual ByronFest, July 8-10, upholds a small-town tradition that showcases the community, gives nonprofits an opportunity to raise money, and serves as the biggest fundraiser for the local Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a great big family get together, all for the purpose of having summer fun,” says Nick Peterson, office manager for the Byron Chamber of Commerce. “People look forward to this festival every year to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and just get everyone back together to have a good time.”
New this year is ByronFest Idol. For five weeks, beginning in May, up to 10 people competed on a first-come-first-serve basis at selected locations around the area. The top five finalists compete June 30 and the top three will compete for cash prizes at the festival on Saturday.
Peterson says ByronFest is known for its non-stop music on two separate stages, with a beer garden at each location. The Constellation Stage is located outside of City Hall on the corner of Second and Washington streets and the Byron Lions Stage is in Municipal Parking Lot 1 on Walnut Street.
The music schedule is as follows:
Neil Dover performs July 8 on the Byron Lions Club Stage from 5-7 p.m.; Rollin Whiskey 7:30-9:30 p.m.; and Back Country Roads 10 p.m.-midnight. Flannel Daze performs on the Constellation Stage from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Monroe 8-9 p.m., and Sunset Strip 9:30 p.m.-midnight.
The Red Band performs July 9 on the Byron Lions Club Stage from 4-7 p.m., Wait, What? 7:30-9:30 p.m., and Trippin Billies 10 p.m.-midnight. Couch Coins performs on the Constellation Stage from noon-2:30 p.m., O.G.M.C. 3-5 p.m., ByronFest Idol 5:30-6:30 p.m., Restless Road 7-8:15 p.m., Old Soul Radio 9-10 p.m., and Chico and The Man 10 p.m.-midnight.
Rock City Blues Band performs July 10 on the Byron Lions Club Stage from noon-2:30 p.m., followed by Saturday June from 3-5 p.m. The Constellation Stage features Byron Dance Academy from noon-1p.m., JB Project 1:30-3:30 p.m. and Mike and Adam 3:30-5 p.m.
Taste of ByronFest hosts a wide variety of food vendors, including ice cream and desserts from Grandma’s Goodies Concessions; homemade pizza by Pizza on Earth; pulled pork, ribs and brisket from Ole’ Folks BBQ; hot dogs from Dogs on the Run; tacos, burritos and more from Hector’s Cocina; fair food from All Around Amusement Inc.; granita from 2nd Act Sweets Food Truck; Cuban sandwiches from Weh Pah Food Truck; shaved ice from Kona Ice; Chinese food from Peking Food; and jumbo turkey legs, catfish sandwiches, soul food, banana pudding, and peach cobbler cheesecake from T & C Cooking Creations.
Other ByronFest highlights include carnival rides from 5 p.m.-midnight on Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; a bags tournament at 11 a.m. Saturday with registration at 10:30 a.m.; a ByronFest Cacciatore Quilt Show during museum hours each day at the Museum of History, 110 N. Union St.; magician Magic Matt from 5- 9 p.m. Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sunday; a 5k Run at 8 a.m. Saturday; and a parade starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday. A new route for the parade will begin at Maple and Second streets, travel east on Second Street, north on Colfax and east on Third Street, ending at Third and Market.
The whole community supports the festival in some way, through sponsorship, participation or attendance, Peterson says. Several nonprofit groups pitch in and help each year with set up, cleanup, or working a booth to raise money for their cause, including the Boy Scouts, Tebala Shriners, local churches, Byron High School Football, Byron Junior Tackle, and Stillman Valley boys’ basketball. The Ogle County Probation Department is providing opportunities for community service hours.
Admission wristbands are $8 in advance or $10 at the gate and are required for admission to the beer gardens, entertainment stages and Taste of ByronFest. No wristbands are required on “Family Day” Sunday when admission is free. Wristbands are available at Byron Bank, the Chamber of Commerce, Felker Foods, Kelly Williamson Mobil, Snyder Pharmacy, Sterling Federal Bank, Merlin’s Greenhouse, and Stillman Bank. A mega pass, which includes unlimited carnival rides and daily admission, is $55 in advance and can be purchased at the chamber office, 232 W. Second St., or at byronfest.org. At the gate, the mega pass is $65. A VIP area pass is $20 and gives 200 people special seating and amenities Friday and Saturday nights. Children under seven years old are admitted free.
For more information, visit byronfest.org or call 815-234-5500.