Fourth of July Fun at Dixon’s Petunia Festival

The 60th annual Petunia Festival in downtown Dixon, always celebrated in conjunction with the Fourth of July, features more than two miles of streets aglow with thousands of pink petunias, more live music than ever, a new dog parade, ski shows, contests, and all kinds of traditional family fun.

This year’s event with the theme “Peace, Love, Petunias,” will take place Wednesday through Sunday, July 3-7, in an area that includes the festival grounds along the riverfront, in front of Dixon High School at 300 Mark Dallas Way, between the city’s bridges and throughout downtown Dixon.

“The Petunia Festival is so special to Dixon because most of its 15,000 residents have attended an event, volunteered or been involved in some way at some point in their lives,” says Jenna Dempsey, vice president of marketing and president of the festival in 2012.

“The entire community gets together and rallies behind the festival that brings in a record number of visitors to our downtown. 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,” she says.

Musical entertainment performs on two stages: the Kona Brewing Main Stage on the corner of River Street and Galena Avenue, and the new and improved Stella Reagan Stage in front of the President Ronald Reagan statue on River Street and Hennepin Avenue.

Entertainers this year include Mark Chestnutt, Ashley Cooke, Gina Venier, Rod Tuffcurls and the Benchpress, Kirkland, Penny Lane, Half Catholic, Baja, Slick Trigger, Jay Vonn, Tristan Bushman Band, Joe Stamm Band, Sheezit, Zero to Sex, Rosbrook Studio, The Timothy Morris Band, Tripping Molly, Class Field Trip, CalDean, The SKoundrels, Mirabilia and Funky Monks.

New this year is a Dog Parade on Sunday at Haymarket Square. Preregistration is required at In addition, the Ski Broncs perform two shows Sunday on the Rock River.

Other festival traditions include a carnival, 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, bags tournament, Cruise-in Style Car Show, a food tent and more. Many events require pre-registration.

A Family Fun Night on Friday includes a reading of the Declaration of Independence at 6:30 p.m., followed by a performance by the Dixon Municipal Band Concert. A community worship is at 9 a.m. Sunday.

A special-needs quiet hour takes place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. No wristbands or tickets are sold at the carnival during this time. Participants must pre-register to get the correct wristband.

The Dixon Dish food vendors in the entertainment area feature pizza, tacos, corn dogs, elephant ears and more from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

Floats, bands, dancers, clowns, jugglers and local businesses are some of the highlights of the traditional parade at 1 p.m. Sunday traveling north from St. Mary’s Catholic School, 704 S. Peoria Ave., to Dixon High School. The festival ends with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. over the Rock River. Tune into River Country 101.7 to hear the synchronized music during the fireworks display.

The festival began as a carnival and beer garden in a store parking lot in 1964, in conjunction with the planting of petunias to beautify the city after Dutch Elm Disease destroyed most of the trees canopying over Galena Avenue. Today, there are about 300 hanging petunia baskets lining the two bridges, downtown streets, and the riverfront.

The baskets cost about $17,000 each year, with funding provided by Rock River Garden Club, the Dixon Area Garden Club and individual donations. Anyone wanting to contribute to the project can send donations to Dixon in Bloom, P. O. Box 127, Dixon, IL, 61021.

Festival tickets are $10 per day, or $25 for all four days if purchased in advance at the Petunia Festival Headquarters, 77 S. Hennepin Ave. Presale carnival vouchers are $30. For a complete schedule of events and activities, go to