Algonquin residents will come together this weekend to commemorate the town's founding fathers in a festival of food, activities and live entertainment.
The independent Algonquin Founders' Days festival began in 1960, when business owners and community leaders wanted to celebrate their community, said festival board secretary Sue Bazdor.
The tradition will continue for the 54th year from Thursday, July 24, until Sunday, July 27, at Algonquin Lakes Park, 1401 Compton Drive.
Algonquin residents and visitors with a competitive edge can enter such events as a baking competition, a single elimination bags tournament and a stand up paddle board challenge.
More creative and crafty events might spark the interest of those who prefer artistic activities, such as the bike decorating contest, Bazdor said.
The bike decorating contest, which takes place at 1 p.m. Friday, is for kids ages 11 and younger. Those who do the best job decorating their bikes in this year's Founders' Days 1980s theme can win a gift card to Cycling Republic in Algonquin.
"Anyone who participates in the bike decorating contest is eligible to ride in the 'The 80s are Awesome' parade," Bazdor said. "That's always a lot of fun for the kids."
The parade will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 26.
A Carnival for Special Kids, hosted by the American Legion, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 24, and children with special needs, along with one friend or family member, can participate in festival events for free. Bazdor said it is one of her favorite events each year.
"Those kids can really enjoy being a part of the festival," Bazdor said. "It's awesome to see that smile on their faces."
Other family friendly activities will also be featured throughout the weekend, including a carnival and a "Kids Korner." Various food and beverage vendors can be found throughout the festival grounds as well.
And, Bazdor said, the biggest part of the festival is the live music playing on the main stage each night. Bands like Pirates Over 40, Lounge Puppets and Suburban Cowboys will make an appearance.
"We've changed our lineup quite a bit this year. There will be some great shows," Bazdor said.
On Friday and Saturday, festival admission is $4 and $2 for children. On Sunday, admission is $2 and $1 for kids.
"We're a self-sustaining festival," Bazdor said. "Every dollar we spend goes into making next year's Founders' Days even better."
In the past, 35,000 to 37,000 visitors have attended the festival throughout the four days. On an especially busy night, nearly 5,000 people have been at the festival at one time, Bazdor said.
The most difficult part of putting together such a large festival, she said, is getting enough volunteers. The event is 100 percent volunteer-run, Bazdor said, so nearly 200 volunteers are needed each year to help with the production and organization of various activities.
Many of the volunteers work for a few hours during the weekend, and some work all four days of the festival, but they are all extremely important, Bazdor said.
Algonquin resident Rick Pasturczak, a local business owner and a Founders' Days volunteer, said he loves the festival because it is an opportunity to sit down, socialize with friends and enjoy himself.
"It's a community-driven festival, and it's just nice to see people that live in our area getting involved in the community," he said. "(The festival) just becomes one big party."
For Bazdor, the festival is all about giving back to the community.
"My fondest memory throughout the 10 years that I've been involved (in the Founders' Days festival) is probably working with the incredible people that so selflessly give so much of themselves to make the event possible," she said.
For more information, visit AlgonquinFoundersDays.com.