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updated: 7/9/2014 6:26 PM

ItascaFest preparing for opening night

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By Miles Dobis

More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the 25th annual ItascaFest celebration that begins its four-day run on Thursday.

The festival in Washington Park at 350 E. Irving Park Road will feature bands, food and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

Started in 1990, the party now includes nearly a dozen food vendors, a carnival, a tent for musical acts and children's entertainment.

"This event is truly family oriented," organizer Dan Kompanowski said. "We have a great lineup of bands and vendors and we expect 80 percent of villagers to attend."

For many, the highlight of the festival is the food, with vendors starting to serve at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday. A majority of the vendors have been with ItascaFest since its inception, with healthy representation from area Italian eateries such as White Cottage Pizza and Marino's Kitchen.

Traditional festival fare like burgers and Polish sausage can be found at the Ashley Foods tent, and desserts such as Italian ice and funnel cakes will be served long into the evening.

Music will be presented under a large tent, with headliners including tribute bands for Creedence Clearwater Revival (Blue Moon Swamp) and the Beatles (American English). The Ides of March, known for its 1970 hit "Vehicle" and frontman Jim Peterik, also will perform. All performances are free.

"It's a great lineup," Kompanowski said. "It's really great entertainment from groups that have a base in the Chicago area."

Kompanowski takes special pride in the options for younger festivalgoers in a children's area that features acrobats, face painters and magicians.

"It's really one of the largest of its kind in the country," he said. "We take pride in having lots of options for younger people."

A carnival also will be in place with $21 buying unlimited rides.

The festival will integrate daily events throughout the village's parks, such as an antique flea market from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday in Usher Park and a classic car show from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday along Bloomingdale Road.

ItascaFest also shares the weekend with the village's 3-on-3 basketball tournament, run in conjunction with Itasca Park District.

Admission and music is free, and festivalgoers can park on the side streets surrounding Washington Park or the nearby Metra lot on West Irving Park Road.

Festival hours are 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, noon to 11 a.m. Saturday and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday For details, visit in Special Events.

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