Itasca Fest provides fun and a bit of history
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Summer festival fare is fairly standard — carnivals, craft shows and live music.
What most festival goers don't expect is a history lesson.
If you go
What: Itasca Fest
When: Thursday to Sunday, July 14 to 17
Where: Washington Park, Irving Road and Rush Street, Itasca
Cost: Free admission
Info: itasca.com, click on Special Events
But for the 30,000 and 50,000 people expected to attend this year's Itasca Fest in Washington Park, 350 E. Irving Park Road, the McCormick Foundation Freedom Express will deliver just that.
The Freedom Express is not just a 45-foot-long tour bus. It is a mobile museum out to provide Chicago-area residents, young and old, with "a First Amendment experience."
"The thing we take pride in is that it's truly a family fest," said Dan Kompanowski, special events coordinator for the village of Itasca.
The free museum will be located off Bloomingdale Road during this year's festival for individuals to come aboard and learn about the history of free speech through interactive computer artifacts.
Hosted by the Itasca Lions Club, the four-day Itasca Fest is the village's must-see event of the summer, opening at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 14, and running through Sunday, July 17.
"It's a new challenge every year to bring something new," said Kompanowski, who has helped organize the fest for more than 20 years.
Itasca Fest has never fallen short of the challenge.
For the first time, the fest will offer visitors a chance to explore a U.S. Army Aviation Semi, outfitted with a helicopter simulator and myriad other interactive activities, Kompanowski said.
"It's usually a huge attraction," he said.
A four-day carnival with rides and games again will be an essential part of the festivities, with unlimited ride tickets available in advance for $14 or during the festival for $18. The tickets may be used from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday as well as 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Though amid the new festivities, the organizers of Itasca Fest have not forgotten the festival's budget-friendly family favorites.
"We take pride in getting a lot of attractions that are totally free," Kompanowski said.
Live music will play a large part in the festival featuring headliners such as AC/DC tribute band Down Pour, '80s hair band tribute The Lounge Puppets, Eagles tribute band Heartache Tonight and Beatles tribute band American English.
Itasca Fest also boasts a large children's area that Kompanowski refers to as "probably the biggest of any festival there is," featuring balloon makers, face painters, acrobats, stilt walkers, magicians and more.
After a day full of rides and rock 'n' roll, daily indoor cash bingo games and a medley of local food vendors are just a few of the reasons families keep coming back to Washington Park each July.
"It's for everybody," Kompanowski said. "I think that's why it's so successful."
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