Visitors returning to the annual South Elgin Riverfest Express may be a little turned around this year.
In previous years, the stage for live entertainment has been near the State Street bridge. But this year, it will be next to the dam on the opposite side of the festival grounds. This alters the whole layout of the festival, said Joyce Ware, event co-chairwoman.
If you goWhat: 18th annual Riverfest Express
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14; 5 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17
Where: Panton Mill Park, 10 N. Water St., South Elgin
"We've been the same way for 17 years, so we decided to switch things around and see how it works," Ware said. "It's just trying something different for a change."
The carnival and the live bands draw large crowds to Riverfest each year, festival volunteer Bill DiFulvio said. For example, Ware said, the band 7th heaven will return to Riverfest to play Saturday night at 9 p.m., and "they bring in the crowd."
The new layout allows for a larger, less congested crowd near the stage, DiFulvio said, as well as more carnival rides.
"We're rearranging the furniture in the living room," he said. "Everything's still going to be there, but we're taking advantage of the space."
Riverfest Express, at Panton Mill Park, 10 N. Water St., begins Thursday, Aug. 14, and ends with a fireworks display at night on Sunday, Aug. 17. Those enjoying the live music at the new stage location will have the best seats for the fireworks show, DiFulvio said.
Another poplar feature, Ware said, is the car show, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in County Park, 11 W. Plum Street. All cars are welcome, she said, and some might even receive special recognition.
This year, the families of the late Jim Hansen, former village president, and Jim Gray, a former member of the Riverfest committee, will get to choose their favorite cars. The owners of those cars will win a trophy, Ware said.
Other features on the festival grounds include food vendors, a craft show and a beer tent.
Both DiFulvio and Ware think Riverfest's best offering is A Special Night for Special Kids. This event will take place from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13. Children with special needs and their families can enjoy a free night of carnival rides, games and food.
"You can just see in their faces how happy these kids are to be here," Ware said. "It'll melt your heart."
When the Riverfest committee started the Special Night for Special Kids in 2002, about 30 families registered. Now, several hundred are expected to attend.
"It has the biggest impact on the most people," DiFulvio said.
Because families will start enjoying the festival Wednesday, village staff, the Riverfest committee and volunteers will spend days beforehand making sure that everything is set up correctly, DiFulvio said. Preparation is especially important, he added, because the layout is entirely new.
"Everyone is going to have to learn new boundaries," he said.
The most difficult part of organizing this year's festival was making sure everybody was on the same page regarding the new layout, said DiFulvio, who has been involved with Riverfest since 2005.
Otherwise, he said, planning the festival seems to run smoothly, thanks to the committee, the sponsors and the hundreds of volunteers.
"If we didn't have the support of our community, we wouldn't have Riverfest," DiFulvio said.
For details, visit RiverfestExpress.net.