Lifelong Batavia resident Craig Foltos loves making people laugh. He likes telling jokes. And in the 16 years he has volunteered at the Batavia Windmill City Festival, his favorite part has always been seeing children and their families smile.
Foltos, owner of Batavia's Foltos' Tonsorial Parlor, said being a part of community events like the Windmill City Festival is in his blood.
If you goWhat: Batavia Windmill City Festival
When: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 11; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 12; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 13
Where: Batavia Riverwalk, on Houston Street at Island Avenue
"I always like being involved in the community," he said. "My father owned the shop before me, and he was always in the community helping out, so it's just a natural thing for me."
This year, Foltos will continue the tradition by being the emcee for the pet parade, a long-standing festival tradition that gives families a chance to show off their pets.
After the parade, which will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 12, the pets will be judged in various categories, such as best costume, unique pet and best trick, said Kari Felkamp, director of marketing for the Batavia Park District.
"Even if people aren't participating in the (pet parade), we get a really good crowd," she said. "It's so much fun to see a variety of dogs and a variety of pets. It's always a really fun, unique event."
Though the parade is one of the most popular features, the four-day festival has other activities that the nearly 13,000 attendees can participate in each year, Felkamp said.
For the first time, the festival will kick off at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Batavia Riverwalk, starting with a networking mixer. The first live band of the weekend, Back Country Roads, will perform at 7:30 p.m. that night.
Live entertainment will continue throughout the festival, which runs until 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 13.
Another festival tradition and one of the most popular events is the ice cream eating contest, which takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Felkamp said. Registration is at 1:15 p.m. Participants are separated into three different age groups and are given a gutter full of ice cream from Batavia Creamery. The contestant in each age group to finish his or her ice cream the fastest wins.
The catch, Felkamp said, is that they cannot use their hands.
Each year, the Windmill Whirl 5K Race brings in runners from all over the Fox Valley, Felkamp said. But this year, festival organizers are hoping for an even larger crowd as the event was moved to 7 p.m. Friday night.
"It's kind of a cool experience for runners in the area," Felkamp said. "There are a lot of 5Ks in the area, but not many night races."
Additional festival features throughout the weekend include a golf challenge, a diaper derby, a craft show and live band karaoke.
Admission is free, though certain activities and food do cost money, Felkamp said.
"We take pride in the fact that it's a family-friendly event, and we truly have something for everybody," she said. "It's a free event for people, and I think that's really important to us."
Because it has been around for many years, many former and current Batavia residents grew up attending Windmill City Festival, Felkamp said. In the past, families or groups of friends have scheduled reunions at the fest, she said.
"Batavia is such a community-minded town. It has a hometown feel, and I think that this festival kind of gives people a meeting place," Felkamp said. "I love that it's a true community event."
The festival is very welcoming, Foltos said, but the most important part is that everyone has a good time.
"There (are) enough hardships in life," Foltos said. "If you get the chance to laugh or to make someone laugh, it's all worthwhile."