After no festival in 2020 and scaled-down versions the following years due to the pandemic, Petunia Festival in downtown Dixon is back in full force this year with a focus on musical entertainment.
“We want to give new artists the opportunity to play, as well as showcase more nationally known bands,” says Nick Escobar, entertainment chairman and Petunia Festival President in 2022. “We want to be a showcase for some of the best bands the area has to offer. Petunia Festival gives a small town a big-town feeling.”
This year’s event takes place Friday through Tuesday, June 30-July 4, in downtown Dixon and at the festival grounds along the riverfront.
“The entire community gets together and rallies behind the festival that brings in a record number of visitors to our downtown,” Escobar says. “It’s the biggest event of the year and is a private, not-for-profit event, with all money raised going into the next year’s festival.”
Musical entertainment performs on two stages; the Stella Main Stage on the corner of River Street and Galena Avenue; and the Reagan Stage, in front of the President Ronald Reagan statue on River Street and Hennepin Avenue.
Last year, the Reagan Stage was upgraded with a new platform, new lighting and sound system to deliver the same experience as the main stage, Escobar says.
A musical headliner takes the stage each night. On Friday, it’s Too Much Molly, a fun, popular music dance band seen regularly in Chicago. On Saturday, Trippin Billies, a Dave Matthews Tribute Band also from Chicago, takes the stage. On Sunday, Michael Ray performs many of his top 40 hits during the festival’s country night, and Monday features Everclear, a grunge pop band from California playing music from the 1990s and beyond.
The festival features continuous live music on alternating stages every one to two hours, Escobar adds. Main Stage entertainment begins Friday with Invisible Cartoons at 6:30 p.m., followed by Too Much Molly at 9:30 p.m. Saturday features Kirkland at 6:30 p.m. and The Trippin Billies at 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, Dixon native Gina Venier, a Midwesterner whose fun-loving, down-to-earth personality makes everyone feel a part of the party, performs at 6:30 p.m., followed by Michael Ray at 9:30 p.m. Monday’s acts include Timothy Morris Band at 6:30 p.m. and Everclear at 10 p.m.
Friday’s Reagan Stage headliners include Velvet 100 at 5:30 p.m. and Class Field Trip at 8:30 p.m. Saturday’s entertainment includes BAJA at 5:30 p.m. and Mirabilia at 8:30 p.m. Sunday features Slick Triger at 5:30 p.m. and 3 Day Rain at 8:30 p.m. On Monday, Half Catholic performs at 5:30 p.m.
“We are offering a wide variety of music because we want Petunia Festival to be a great experience for everyone,” Escobar says.
Other festival traditions include tours of the late President Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home, pancake breakfasts, arts and crafts, an ice cream social, bingo, the annual KSB Tennis Classic, a fishing derby, volleyball tournament, disc golf tournament, Cruise-in Style Car Show presented by Ken Nelson Auto Group, a food tent, bags tournament, games, amusement rides by North American Midway Entertainment Carnival, a Family Fun Night and more.
Food vendors serve pizza, tacos, corn dogs, elephant ears and more along the riverfront from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, 1 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, and 2 p.m. to midnight on Monday.
Floats, bands, dancers, clowns, jugglers and more are some of the highlights of the traditional parade at 1 p.m. on Sunday, traveling from St. Mary’s Catholic School, 704 S. Peoria Ave., to Dixon High School, 315 Mark Dallas Way. Fireworks presented by KSB Hospital are launched near the ComEd site on Second Street, and people can tune into River Country 101.7 to hear the synchronized music during the display on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.
Festival tickets are $10 per day, or presale tickets for all four days can be purchased for $25 at the Petunia Festival Headquarters, 77 S. Hennepin Ave.
For a complete schedule of events and activities, go to petuniafestival.org.