Where can you see watermelons being launched hundreds of feet to go "splat" on the ground? At the 12th annual Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival, of course. The festival starts Friday, Aug. 31 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 2.
The Melon Propellin' contest, set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, has been a signature event at the festival for nearly 10 years. Teams work weeks to months in advance to build the perfect structure to chuck a 10-pound melon up to 500 feet away.
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If you goWhat: The 12th annual Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival
When: 3 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31; 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2
Where: Sunset Park, at Miller and Albrecht roads, Lake in the Hills
Caroline Wolfe and her husband Jim have helped organize the event for many years. Jim has even entered the event during the first few years it ran.
"The crowd is always quite large ... hundreds of people," Caroline said.
Many of the teams started as a few neighbors or friends getting together to just have a good time and ended up returning each year, Caroline said.
Each launcher is allowed three melons to compete with and the longest throw wins. The machines are built on a trial-and-error basis, she said. The designs vary between sling shots and catapults. The first place prize is $100, second is $75 and third is $50.
Sometimes a group can have a really well thought-out design that breaks right before the event and their melons barely move, Caroline said. It's hard to give advice on how to win that way.
"It could be the luck of the draw ... you never know," she said.
But the competition is only a small part of the event, Caroline said. They will chuck the fruit until there is no more to throw or all the machines break.
The event also invites Acme Catapult each year to show the audience how far a watermelon really can fly. Caroline said their fruit flies more than 2,000 feet.
"You'll just have to come out and watch," she said.
Before this event takes place, and long after it's over, the festival has many other activities to offer.
Chairwoman Denise Wasserman has been helping with the fest for eight years and said this festival has something for everyone. The Kids' Korner provides children with many free activities.
"That is something that is a little different than other festivals," Wasserman said.
The attraction is geared toward preschool- to elementary-aged children.
There is a stage area in the Kids' Korner that will host performers and their special talents. There will be a bubble show, a fire juggler, yo-yo performance and a magic show on the stage. The corner will also have an ice cream eating contest, face and body painting, balloon twisting with a clown, farm animals, sno cones and many other games and prizes.
"It's like a mini kids' festival inside the whole festival," Wasserman said. The Kids' Korner will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The car show at 6 p.m. Friday will showcase classic and custom cars.
"That (show) kind of has its own following," Wasserman said.
The best part? It is free to attend and participate and there is no registration process. People are encouraged to park their prize vehicle starting at 5 p.m. Cars will be voted on for awards of the best vehicle in each decade. Plus, judges will determine which car is the best in the show at the end.
On Saturday, there will be a parade at 10 a.m., an arts and crafts show starting at 11 a.m., a horseshoe tournament at 12:30 p.m. and a battle of the bands starting at 2 p.m. On Sunday, there will be a bags tournament at 11 a.m., business expo at noon, a Got Talent? competition at 2 p.m. and fireworks starting at 9:30 p.m.
The main stage will have two bands perform each day. Shows on Friday and Saturday will start at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday shows will be at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Carnival rides, food vendors and the beer garden will be open throughout the weekend, too.
Wasserman's favorite part is not an activity, though.
"I like the fireworks, but not for the fireworks ... you can really see how this neighborhood has grown," she said. Wasserman became involved with the festival after she took the village clerk position, she said. She wanted a way to connect with the community and help bring residents together.
The fest relies on community members to put the event together.
"We have great volunteers that work all year round to get this together," she said. There are more than 30 volunteers to organize each event throughout the year and up to 100 who help during the fest, Wasserman said.
"It's local. It's our hometown."
Visit summersunsetfest.com for details.