What better way to showcase Elgin's newly rebuilt downtown Riverside Drive and promenade than to hold a festival there?
The city's third annual iFest, or International Festival, will take place there 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, with the first official closing of the street along the Fox River that reopened a couple of months ago after years of work.
What: Elgin's iFest (International Festival)
Why: To celebrate the enhanced partnership between WeGo Together for Kids, Metropolitan Family Services and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Riverside Drive in downtown Elgin along the Fox River.
Details: Music and entertainment, ethnic cuisine, hands-on activities, a world market, and cultural arts and crafts.
The festival will be parceled into five geographical regions: Africa, North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, said Barb Keselica, the city's special events and community engagement manager.
Each region will be represented by three entertainment acts and four food vendors, and altogether showcase 10 countries in some form or another, she said.
For example, there will be a vendor selling amber jewelry from Poland and an informational booth about Scottish settlers in Elgin, Keselica said.
Entertainment will include American bluegrass, Mexican mariachi, Hawaiian dancers, a German "oompah" band, and much more.
"It made more sense to move (iFest) from Festival Park to Riverside Drive because it's going to be rows of tents," she said.
"From the city's standpoint, it will be a good way, now that we have this new venue, to be able to showcase it."
This year's festival expanded on the popular multicultural children's area of the first two editions, Keselica said.
Children will still get their own amusement on Saturday, such as henna tattoos and arts and crafts including make-your-own-dreamcatcher, she said.
A "City of Peace" area partly sponsored by the Gail Borden Public Library will feature the nonfiction children's book "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" by Eleanor Coerr, and activities including origami, and English and bilingual storytime.
Adults will have a play area, too, with an international beer garden.
New this year are a passport contest and an interactive community map, Keselica said.
In the contest, kids in third through eighth grades who answer questions correctly will get a chance to win tickets including to Six Flags Great America and Brookfield Zoo. The winning school will get a movie and popcorn event sponsored by Elgin Area School District U-46.
The map will allow visitors to pinpoint their ancestry, Keselica said. "We want to showcase where Elgin residents come from," she said.
Aloune Khotisene, co-chairman of the Asia region portion of the festival, agreed.
"I think it's important to showcase our diversity in Elgin," he said. "Many towns have their festivals, but Elgin is the only one who's done an iFest."
It's not just about pointing to differences among cultures, but also commonalities, he said. "We're trying to share with other communities about our residents that we are all in it together."