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Thursday, 22 May 2014 00:00

Get out and enjoy the summer: Top 15 regional festivals and events

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Carnival rides are only one attraction during Lake Geneva’s Venetian Festival in August. For more than 50 years, families have flocked to the lakeshore to enjoy food, music, fireworks, the lighted boat parade and more. Carnival rides are only one attraction during Lake Geneva’s Venetian Festival in August. For more than 50 years, families have flocked to the lakeshore to enjoy food, music, fireworks, the lighted boat parade and more. File photo by Terry Mayer/staff

It would seem that the long winter is finally relinquishing its grasp on the region, and just in time for festival season.

Every year, throughout the summer and fall, Rock and Walworth counties is host to a variety of entertaining, interesting and fun festivals and events. These happenings not only provide locals with engaging family-friendly activities, but also draw in residents from outlying communities and give them a reason to stop by and visit us.

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"Each of these festivals and special events really provide us with an essential component to our tourism package," said Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "People may be drawn to the community for a sporting event or another activity in town, but when we provide a vast array of festivals and special events, they are much more likely to stay longer and bring additional family members."

 

In addition to providing entertainment, many of the regional festivals serve to support organizations that are in turn supporting the community and thereby performing a sort of double duty.

"Many of the festivals are actually put on by nonprofit groups so by attending and supporting the festivals, you’re helping support what is needed in our local communities," said Kathleen Seeberg, executive director of the Walworth County Visitors Bureau. "Whether it’s the Lions Club or the Kiwanis or whoever, by supporting them you are helping them raise funds that they use to keep running."

As our economy starts to show glimmers of recovery, it is widely hoped that local tourism will respond in kind. Rebout feels optimistic about tourism activity this festival season, especially in light of upcoming events.

"We’re looking at a really strong tourism season for the 2014 year," she said. "We have three key activities taking place in Traxler Park with the Rock Aqua Jays that will really help. This year they are hosting the Mercury Marine Invitational in June, they’ll be hosting the national water ski tournament in August and in September we’ll be hosting the world water ski show tournament."

Seeberg feels much the same about the regions prospects, saying that the long winter is as good a motivator as any to hit the festivals this year.

"Tourism has been increasing," Seeberg said. "Every year we’ve seen a growth and so we expect this year to be the same, especially with the rough winter we’ve had. We believe that this summer will be even better. I think a lot of people feel like it’s time to get out and get moving."

Although there are many events to enjoy in the region this summer, we’ve highlighted fifteen top festivals you might not want to miss this year.

1. Freedom Fest, June 28

Freedom Fest 2014 will be held on Saturday, June 28. Gates open at 10 a.m. Freedom Fest started in 2002 and has grown into one of the largest community events in the Janesville area.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 people have attended in recent years. The festival features attractions, fireworks, food and live stage performances. It is also home to a free health clinic, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

As in previous years, Freedom Fest will be held at New Life Assembly of God in Janesville.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

2. Edgerton Tobacco Heritage Days, July 18 through July 20

The three-day Edgerton Tobacco Heritage Days festival truly has something for everyone. The festival features a carnival, arts in the park, a car show, baseball, softball, a parade, live music, food and more.

The event, now in its 43rd year, even has a lip sync contest. Hosted in downtown Edgerton, the festival is a happening you won’t want to miss.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

3. Tallman Arts Festival, Aug. 3

The Tallman Arts Festival has been celebrating art, culture and entertainment from Rock County and beyond for 57 years, and this year won’t be any different. The festival is the Rock County Historical Society’s largest event, drawing more than 100 artists and more than 3,000 visitors to the society’s Jackson Street campus.

This year the theme is "art in nature."

Other than the art, the event will host a pie auction and a children’s area with crafts.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

4. Arts and Crafts on the Lawn, Aug. 17

The Milton House Museum’s Arts and Crafts on the Lawn festival is held in conjunction with the Milton chamber’s chicken barbecue each year on the third Sunday in August. With an attendance of about 10,000, it is Milton’s largest annual event.

The event hosts more than 150 authentic arts and crafts vendors, an ice cream social, a craft raffle, discounted tours of the Milton House Museum and food vendors.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

5. Riverside Music Festival, Aug. 17

The Riverside Music Festival kicks off at 11 a.m. Aug. 17 in Riverside Park in Janesville. This year the event will feature Steve Peck & Phil Trumpy, a country and classic rock duo, and Docs That Rock.

The event has more than just music, though. There are activities for children such as a bouncy house, face painting and clowns. There also will be a shuffleboard tournament and a pickleball demonstration.    

For a full list of event details, visit the website

6. Edge of the Rock Plein Air painting event, June 4-14

   The Plein Air art event allows artists and residents a chance to join regional artists to paint architectural treasures en plein air to capture the natural beauty of the riverfront, historic downtown and Beloit College campus in the sunshine or at night.

The event features workshops, paint-out day and artists’ receptions. There will be $4,500 in prizes awarded to the artists at a concluding event and public sale on June 13 at Hendricks Center for the Arts.

For more event details, visit the website.

7. Old Settlers Days in Rockton, June 19-22

   This year, Old Settlers Days stages will feature Bret Michaels, Lee Brice and Chris Young. But realistically, the festival has something for everyone.

"On that Thursday we have Bret Michaels performing, who is more of a rock musician than country one," said OSD committee member Monique Weaver. "It’s exciting, because it’s an opportunity for anyone who might not be that big of a country fan to come out and still enjoy the festival’s music."

The new festival stage that showcases local musicians that was added last year will be returning because of its popularity. Weaver also pointed out that the event is not only a lot of fun, but is an important way to support the community.

"This isn’t just a regular festival put on by a business," said Weaver. "We put on the festival as a fundraiser for the Rockton Lions Club, and that goes back into the community."

For more event details, visit the website.

8. Celebrate Weekend and Street Dance, Aug. 1-2

This year, music for the Celebrate Weekend and Street Dance in Beloit will be provided by Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys and The Eddie Butts Band. Downtown Beloit Association Executive Director Shauna El-Amin says that it’s not only a great party, it supports the work the DBA does throughout the year.

"It’s our largest fundraiser of the year," El-Amin said. "But really, it’s just a good chance for people to get out on the streets and dance. It has a nightlife sort of feel to it. We have local bands playing onstage, and we close down the whole block of State Street."

For more event details, visit the website.

9. Winnebago County Fair, Aug. 12-17

   The Winnebago County Fair is getting close to a century old, turning 93 this year. The fair, billed as 143 acres of indoor and outdoor fun, is a Stateline mainstay on the festival scene, and not one to be missed. The fair is host to live music, motor sports, talent shows, a carnival and a vast number of other activities. Event coordinator and office manager at the fairgrounds Lorianne Robertson says it’s a place to come together. And no matter who you are, there is something that will appeal to you.

"It’s a good place for the community to come together, it’s a great family event for people of all ages," said Robertson. "My favorite part is the pageant, but I direct it as well, so I am partial to it. But we also have the music, the tractor pulls and the demo derby, so there are things for all different tastes."

For more event details, visit the website.

10. Beloit Farmers Market and Rockton River Market, all summer

   The Beloit Farmers Market, already in its pre-sale stage, opens up to the full-sized market in June.

The market is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays in the 300 block of State Street in downtown Beloit.

Now 49 years old, the market has grown considerably over the past few years, and El-Amin says the DBA is adding new vendors and features every year.

"This year we have added new vendors. We were able to do this because of the two-block extension last year," El-Amin said. "We were also able to expand our food court. A lot of people like to come down and actually eat at the market. We have done some surveys and counted recently that we have about 4,500 people come down and visit us every Saturday, as well as almost a 100 vendors."

The Rockton River Market is a growing market in its own right, playing host to live music in addition to food vendors. Luckily you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other; you can hit both the Beloit and Rockton markets because the Rockton River Market is held on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. all summer.

For more details on both markets, visit the Beloit market website or the Rockton market website

11. Lake Geneva Paint-In, June 14 and June 15

The annual Geneva Lakes Art Association’s Lake Geneva Paint-In event will be taking place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 14 and June 15.

The event is an opportunity to rub elbows with local artists and peruse their collections. It’s not every day that you see Main Street lined with enthusiastic artists. According to the GLAA, participants are invited to demonstrate their art, as well as sell their original art, prints and cards on Lake Geneva’s Main Street. There are opportunities to make contacts and obtain commissions and sales as well.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

12. Whitewater 4th of July Festival, July 3 through July 5

Whitewater’s 4th of July Festival invites residents and visitors for an enjoyable day by the lake. Entertainment, food and music are featured near the shores of Cravath Lake.

In addition to celebrating our country’s independence, the festival fare also includes a carnival, parade, the Miss Whitewater pageant, the Whitewater Car Show, the Minneiska Ski Show on Cravath Lake, a petting zoo and, of course, fireworks.

For a full list of details about the free family event, visit the website.

13. Cars Time Forgot, July 13

The annual Cars Time Forgot show promises to be another well-attended walk down the automotive memory lane. Held at Lake Lawn Resort on the shores of Delavan Lake, the event showcases custom cars, stock cars, trucks and motorcycles from bygone days.

Admission is free for spectators. Last year, the event drew 800 show vehicles.

Also at the event there will be road tours, food, live music and vendors. Now in its 11th?year, the event has been an annual attraction for the classic car owner and admirer alike.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

14. Art in the Park, Aug. 9 and Aug. 10

Art in the Park has long been offering the county a taste of the arts in Lake Geneva. Held in Flat Iron Park, the two-day event enters its 34th year in 2014. Running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 9 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 10, the event is host to a large number of artists working with many different mediums.

Among the festival’s features are a silent auction tent, a just-for-kids area and vendors. This year’s show will be judged by Amy Arnston, professor emeritus of art from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

15. Venetian Festival, Aug. 13 through Aug. 17

Venetian Festival, held in Flat Iron Park and sponsored by the Lake Geneva Jaycees, enters its 52nd year this season. This five-day festival hosts a carnival, craft fair, water ski show, live music, local cuisine, a lighted boat parade and, as always, a fireworks display on Geneva Lake.

The Venetian Festival has been a staple of the Walworth County event season since 1962, and this year is no different. The event runs from 5 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and noon to midnight over the weekend.

For a full list of event details, visit the website.

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