Local festivals continue to be on the chopping block in many local municipalities as officials move to cut costs and concentrate on providing basic services.
However, one traditional summer event remains strong without getting any municipal funding at all: Frontier Days in Arlington Heights.
Frontier Days, Inc. is a not-for-profit, self-sustaining organization. The Village of Arlington Heights and the Arlington Heights Park District support the community event, but tax dollars are not spent on mounting the festival.
Instead, a nonprofit board of directors and generous corporate sponsors provide the fest's backbone, together with hundreds of "red shirts" or volunteers that work the different booths and stage activities.
This will be Frontier Days' 36th annual July Fourth festival, running June 30-July 4.
Organizers try not to change a good thing, though they will be offering a few new events, says Janelle Kulisch, co-chairman with LeeAnn Lenz, both of Arlington Heights.
Since its inception in 1975 as a bicentennial celebration, Frontier Days has established itself as one of the largest July Fourth festivals in the Northwest suburbs.
Across all five days there will be free live entertainment on three stages, carnival rides, games, an arts and crafts show, two food tents and a host of team-related activities for children and families.
New activities include a team trivia contest July 2 at the Frontier Stage; and a rib eating contest that same afternoon sponsored by Sweet Baby Ray's in Elk Grove Village.
Its main stage entertainment is the centerpiece of the festival, offering free concerts every night of the run.
Lee Greenwood, of "God Bless the USA" fame, opens the main stage on Thursday, June 30. The alternative rock group, Gin Blossoms, takes the stage Friday, July 1.
The progressive rock group, Kansas, known for "Dust in the Wind," performs on Saturday, July 2. Lonestar, a country group with crossover success, is the Sunday, July 3 act.
The perennial favorite, American English, a Beatles tribute band, closes the festival on Monday, July 4.
But the main stage is only one entertainment stage at Frontier Days.
"Our Main Stage and Frontier Stage acts bring people in, but the real draw over the years has been that it is truly a family-oriented celebration," Kulisch says. "It just has a hometown feel."
She points to a third stage, dedicated for children and families, called Stage West. Its headliners are Buttons the Clown, the Arlington Heights Fire Department; Dave's Traveling World of Reptiles; the K-9 unit of the Arlington Heights Police Department; Circus Boy, a balancing act with humor; Dave Rudolf's interactive beach party; Velliveau, a magician; a pet parade; and a battle of local teen bands.
Many other free activities are offered throughout the festival's run, including face painting, dog Frisbee and pony rides. The chair decorating contest and the carnival return, too.